(CNN) — Pope Francis waded into the heart of a Kenyan shantytown Friday, spreading a message of acceptance and lashing out at the nation’s elite for neglecting the poor.
Francis’ visit to Kangemi aligned with his message of service to the poor during his three days in Nairobi.
In the sprawling slum filled with tin-roofed homes, he described injustices against the less fortunate as “new forms of colonialism.”
The “dreadful injustice of social exclusion” leaves the poor with an unfair distribution of land, lack of access to infrastructure and minimal basic services, he said.
“Our world has a grave social debt toward the poor who lack access to drinking water because they are denied a life consistent with their inalienable dignity,” the Pope said.
‘We are so blessed’
Kangemi residents applauded his long-term focus on the downtrodden.
“Sometimes challenges in slums almost cause us to despair and some people give up working in slums,” said Sister Mari Killeen, who works with the less fortunate.
“Your visit gives us courage. By coming here, you shine a light on the challenges. Your meeting with us gives us dignity.”
When Francis weaved through the slum’s narrow streets in his popemobile, crowds reached out to touch his hand as he waved from behind a clear protective covering.
Women ululated as children crooned Swahili welcome songs.
“I’m so happy, we are so blessed,” said Magdalene Mwikali, 36, of Kangemi.
“He’s left all those rich neighborhoods to come here,” she said. “He’s shown us we are important, that we matter, that God loves us, too.”
Excited residents have prepared for his arrival for weeks.
Leading up to Friday, volunteer residents gathered to sweep littered streets and cover dirt roads with gravel, Mwikali said. Others perched Vatican and Kenyan flags on the road leading to the church in Kangemi.
The presence of an international figure in their backyard drew some closer to the church.
“He has restored my faith. I have a role model and will practice his humility,” said Regina Kimende, who came from a neighboring parish. “After seeing him today, I have decided my life is at the church. I’m starting all over.”
Pope: Corruption eats you
Francis’ last day in Kenya included meeting with youths at a Nairobi sports center, where he also held talks with bishops.
During his meeting with the youths, he addressed corruption, which is rampant in Kenya and has made headlines recently.
“It’s not just in politics. It is in all institutions, including in the Vatican there are cases of corruption,” he said.
“Corruption is something that eats you inside like sugar. It’s sweet, we like it, it’s easy. And then we end up sick and poor. So much sugar that we either end up being diabetic or own country ends up being diabetic.”
He also called for equal distribution of wealth to ensure the disenfranchised are not at risk of getting radicalized.
In Uganda, then to the Central African Republic
Later Friday, he arrived in neighboring Uganda, kicking off the second leg of his Africa trip. His first stop there was at the state house in Kampala with President Yoweri Museveni, before meeting with officials, catechists and teachers.
A full day awaits Saturday that includes a visit to martyrs’ shrines and celebrating Mass.
After two nights in Uganda, he’ll head to the Central African Republic, the latter mired in a conflict in which Christians and Muslims are slaughtering one another.
First papal trip to Africa
Francis’ first papal trip to Africa started in Kenya on Wednesday, and has addressed other issues such as climate change and poaching.
He delivered a stern warning Thursday ahead of a key climate change conference in Paris next week. He urged nations to reach an agreement over curbing fossil fuel emissions, and work together to find solutions to environmental degradation.
“It would be sad, and I dare say even catastrophic, were particular interests to prevail over the common good,” the Pope said.
But it was his comments on the pillaging of African resources that drew a louder response.
He urged Africans to demand an end to poaching, which “fuels political instability, organized crime and terrorism.” The message reverberated with a nation where farming and tourism are a crucial part of the economy.
The Pope plans to visit a mosque in the Central African Republic, sending a powerful message of religious unity.
In the Central African Republic, a Muslim rebel group overthrew the Christian president two years ago, prompting brutal retaliatory attacks between Christian and Muslim militias.
Those attacks continue and have displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict, visited several countries in Africa. During his nearly three decades in the papacy, Pope John Paul II also made dozens of trips to the continent.