Kenyan runner Mary Keitany meets Pope Francis
The women only world record holder Mary Keitany and her family had a rare opportunity of receiving blessings from Pope Francis in Vatican in Italy on Tuesday.
This happened Sunday’s London Marathon race, where Keitany emerged fifth in a race won by her compatriot Brigid Kosgei.
Together with her husband Charles Koech, who is also coach and their two children, Assumpta Samantha Cherop and Jared Kipchumba, they headed to Italy where they attended a mass presided over by the Pope.
Keitany is a four-time New York Marathon champion and has several titles under her name.
Pope Francis was in Kenya in 2015 where he held a mass at the University of Nairobi grounds which was attended by thousands of Catholic faithful.
How did you feel meeting the Pope for the first time?
It was a surprise being in Vatican, something interesting I can’t even explain. I thought I would just see him from a distance, but being able to meet him in person and shake his hand was something interesting and I would never forget in my lifetime.
Coming to Rome to meet him was huge and I would not take it for granted as it was special thing for me and my family.
Last time Pope Francis came to Kenya, people travelled from all over the country to Nairobi to attend his mass and you could see him at a distance, but it was great honour to exchange greetings with him.
Any memorable message from Pope Francis to you and your family or interactions?
When we met Pope Francis, an interesting thing took place because my daughter, Assumpta Samantha Cherop had with her a photo which she brought from home, Kenya. We took it when we had visited a school and it happened on the backdrop of it there was a picture of Pope Francis on the wall.
My daughter wanted to take a picture with him on the wall and it was about three years ago. So, when I was going to London, my manager Gianni Demadonna informed me of the possibility of going to Rome to meet the Pope but we knew how difficult it would be.
When my daughter heard this, she reminded me of the picture she has taken and told me she would like to gift it to Pope Francis. I packed it for her and when the two met, she asked her name and she responded Assumpta, given to her by Late Bishop Cornelius Korir.
Korir who met us when I was expectant had said if we give birth to a boy, we should call him Francis and if it was a girl we should call her Assumpta. We got a girl and that’s how she ended up with that name.
The Pope was excited to receive the present when she mentioned that was the two of them together on the picture.
He also asked my son what was his name and what we do, we told him and also explained I am an active athlete. He told us to work hard and use the talent given by God well.
By BERNARD ROTICH