Pope Francis speaks at the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore (Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Flowers) during a pastoral visit in Florence on November 10, 2015. (AFP/GIUSEPPE CACACE)
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Pope Francis heads to Africa for the first time on Wednesday on a trip aimed at pushing the key themes of his papacy but also fraught with security concerns.On the streets of the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where Francis is due to arrive around 5:00 pm (1400 GMT), huge billboards have been erected to welcome the pontiff.CAR's acting president Catherine Samba Panza may opt to play it safe and cut the visit to a few hours in Bangui airport, the one area the French military say they can be fairly sure of protecting the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics.Francis is the third pope to visit Africa, a continent which now produces one in six of the world's Catholics and whose importance to the Church is set to grow significantly over the coming decades.He is following in the footsteps of Paul VI, who became the first pope of modern times to set foot in Africa when he visited Uganda in 1964 . He was followed by John Paul II, who managed to visit a total of 42 countries on the continent during his long papacy and was dubbed "The African" by a Senegalese cardinal.
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