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Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments


Pope Francis arrives in Nairobi November 25, and Kenyans are getting ready.

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies.

Sarah Ndungu and her colleagues have been involved in the making of two chasubles – the ceremonial outer robes that priests wear for Mass – especially for the pope.

One is white and features red, blue and green Masaai beadwork, while the other is a more traditional cream-colored garment with gold embroidery.

Choice in clothes

Pope Francis will receive both. But Ndungu has a preference for which one she would like him to wear.

“I would like him to choose this one, with the African touch,” said Ndungu.

Alice Ngundi was asked to make the chasuble with the African touch, with Sister Ida Lagonegro. It took four days to design and construct.

“I just looked at that material and I saw that I can make something African, yeah, so I designed something which was helped by sister,” said Ngundi. “And we came together, me and her and we brought out something nice.”

Sarah Ndungu, secretary and accountant for the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in Kangemi slum, Nairobi, shows the two chasubles her group designed and constructed for Pope Francis during his visit to Kenya later this month, Nov. 12, 2015. (Photo: J. Craig / VOA)

Sarah Ndungu, secretary and accountant for the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in Kangemi slum, Nairobi, shows the two chasubles her group designed and constructed for Pope Francis during his visit to Kenya later this month, Nov. 12, 2015. (Photo: J. Craig / VOA)

But all of the roughly 30 men and women who regularly make vestments here have seen their workload increase significantly. They were also asked to make the majority of the garments for the priests, bishops and other religious officials attending papal functions in Kenya – more than 2,600 pieces of clothing in all.

They have been stitching, embroidering and ironing about 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, since the beginning of October.

“And even when we are doing it, we are doing it with a good heart because we have never had such an opportunity,” said Ndungu, who welcomes the extra work.

Last day in Nairobi

The pope is scheduled to visit their community, Kangemi, on his last day in Nairobi.

With any luck, perhaps he will even acknowledge them along his route, says Sister Ida.

“And maybe someone will tell him, these are the people who made for you the vestment, maybe, so that at least he will send his blessing,” said Sister Ida. “That is what we wish.”

But even if this wish doesn't come true, these tailors are proud to have dressed the pope.

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