Pope Francis Thursday praised Kenya's traditional family values, particularly their respect for children and the elderly. He also made an appeal for the youth to use these values as a guide to ending discrimination and injustice in the future.

"The health of any society depends on the health of its families," the Pope told Mass attendees at Kenya's Nairobi University Nov. 26.

"Kenyan society has long been blessed with strong family life, a deep respect for the wisdom of the elderly and love for children," he said, and noted that families are important in the plan of God.

It's for the sake of our families and the good of society that children must be welcomed "as a blessing for our world," and that the dignity of every man and woman must be defended, since we are all part of one human family, he said.

"We are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women, and threaten the life of the innocent unborn."

While everyone is called to respect others and reach out to those in need, Francis said that Christian families have a special task: "to radiate God's love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit."

This is especially important today, he said, when the growth of materialism and indifference are "new deserts" growing in society.

Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the University of Nairobi on the second day of his Nov. 25-30 African tour, which includes stops in Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic.

Before heading to the university campus, he met with Kenya's interreligious and ecumenical leaders at the Apostolic Nunciature. After the Mass, he will meet with the country's priests, religious and seminarians before closing the day at the office of the United Nations in Nairobi.

In his homily, Francis focused on the promises offered by God in the day's readings, namely, Isaiah's assurance that God will give the people his blessing, give water to the thirsty, and make their people flourish.

This promise is fulfilled not only with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but also whenever the Gospel is preached, "and new peoples become members of God's family, the Church."

"Today we rejoice that it was fulfilled in this land. Through the preaching of the Gospel, you too became part of the great Christian family," the Pope said, explaining that Christian families play a special role in spreading God's word.

He then pointed to another promise God made in Psalm 23, that we will dwell in the house of the Lord for eternity.

God also fulfills this promise in the life of the Church, particularly through the sacraments.
"They make us more faithful disciples of the divine Master, vessels of mercy and loving kindness in a world wounded by selfishness, sin and division."

Francis said that it is with the gift of the sacraments that Kenya's men and women can continue building their country in civil harmony and brotherly solidarity. He stressed that the sacraments must be shared with the youth in particular, who are the future of society.

The Pope then made an appeal to Kenya's youth, asking that "the great values of Africa's traditions, the wisdom and truth of God's word, and the generous idealism of your youth guide you in working to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity."

He asked that they always be aware of the needs of the poor, and work to "reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God."

Jesus gives us the foundation to be able to construct this society, which begins by building our personal lives on the Word of God, Pope Francis said.

He pointed to Jesus' "missionary mandate" after the Resurrection to make disciples of all nations, explaining that this "that is the charge which the Lord gives to each of us."

"He asks us to be missionary disciples, men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and life-changing power of the Gospel. Men and women who are channels of God's grace, who enable his mercy, kindness and truth to become the building blocks of a house that stands firm."

Francis closed by praying that the Lord would guide those present and their families on the path of goodness and mercy, and that they would be blessed with peace.

Before leaving, he offered a brief prayer for them in Swahili: "Mungu awabariki! Mungu abariki Kenya!" meaning "God bless you! God bless you Kenya!"