KENYA: “We Are Celebrating 20 Years of Grace, Gain and Not Loss,” Says Archbishop Anyolo on The 20th Anniversary of Cardinal Otunga

By Paschal Norbert

NAIROBI, SEPTEMBER 5, 2023 (CISA)- Ahead of the 20th Anniversary celebrations of the passing of Cardinal Maurice Otunga on September 6, Most Rev Philip Anyolo, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Nairobi has appealed for more prayers for the process of his sainthood to come to fruition, urging more young people to identify with the heroics and humble life story of the servant of God.

Archbishop Anyolo in an exclusive interview with CISA on September 4, 2023, implored the faithful and people of goodwill to fervently pray for a miracle for the canonization of the servant of God averring that the virtues that the former archbishop of Nairobi championed and lived can be applied to the day to day life of Christians and non-Christians alike.

“He was the first Cardinal in Kenya.  He was even among the first Bishops in Kenya.  He was one of the youngest when he was ordained a Bishop.  He was always the one to start something and starting something, you know, you are creating a foundation for other things to build on.  So we really appreciate that.  And I want to say as we pray for his sainthood within our church that we always get a point of reference from him,” said Anyolo.

According to Archbishop Anyolo, the late Cardinal Otunga practised the virtues of prudence, justice, courage and temperance, values that endeared him to people beyond the Archdiocese of Nairobi and thus his heroic virtues are to be imitated by all in Kenya.

“Therefore I ask again the people of God, not only in this archdiocese but everybody in Kenya, people of goodwill, Christians, non-Christians, Catholics and non-Catholics in their faith, to feel invited, to feel welcome to walk with faith and confidence in the great ways and great paths that he has established. The work of creating a family that is united right from the nuclear families and the work that leads us to walk in holiness, to live in holiness with one another and in relationship to God,” he urged.

Archbishop Anyolo also appealed to young people to be informed and have an interest in knowing the life and times of Cardinal Otunga, especially in the activities he initiated from Kisumu, Kisii to Nairobi for he was always at the moment of call to pioneer faith in areas that he worked.

“The other thing I want to encourage is the presence of the Cardinal to be felt among the young people in the things that he started as pastoral activities.  One was the family life.  As you are aware,  this year we are also celebrating in the Archdiocese of Nairobi as the year of the family.  Stronger families working and joining together in faith, in spirit and truth,” said the archbishop.

Anyolo says family life was the cornerstone that the late Cardinal cherished and nourished as a foundation for the Church in Kenya that today and in the future to come the faithful will continue to build on.

“So you see that is the foundation that was led by Cardinal Otunga and we also want to build upon it.  Because it is still relevant, it will also be forever relevant.  If you look at these moments when he came in, I want to imagine in his mind it was like I have come and I want to do what I can do.  God has sent me here to do something. And he did his part, evangelization.  But I know as he was doing that, he said, call it 10 years.  Call it how many years, I will not have completed this work.  And even after my lifetime, I know I will not have completed this work that he started.  And even after this lifetime, many others will come.  The work continues.  So what I want to say, in this context, he put the foundations on which we as the church that comes afterwards are going to build on all through,” said the archbishop.

He explains, “But I think like the first Cardinal, when he was doing these things, creating families, you know, families should be there forever.  It’s like he was saying and telling us, I’m doing this so that you all will do it also in memory of me, in memory of God.  You know, in God who has created us. So it is a path that will be walked forever. And the path that you can only walk along in faith and trust in God. ”

To ensure the beatification office of the servant of God is in tune and committed to advancing the cause of his sainthood after the passing of several members of the beatification central committee including the late Fr Celestino Bundi who was the chairperson, Archbishop Anyolo revealed that he has reorganized the committee and given them a new charge of duty to see to it that the process is known to everyone and beyond the walls of the archdiocese.

“We didn’t change the entire committee but just included others and brought it again to completion, to fruition-  the team that was there, by replacing those who had passed.  And also it is still open for those who have more experience in matters of canonization so that they may be involved and included in the process because the process is ongoing,” he says.

Anyolo maintains the process is open to everyone and the new changes that have been brought forward are for all to feel included. “This inclusion is also a new thing that we have brought in, a new idea that we have brought in so that as people are eager to contribute towards it, they may do so in a way knowing that there is also space, there is position, there is place to redirect their observations, their reflections, their inspirations and even their experiences with the life of the Cardinal whom we are celebrating his death on September 6.”

The archbishop is, however, cautioning the faithful to use the proper channels of communicating the pieces of evidence of reported miracles or any heroics for transmission to Rome. He says the new committee headed by Fr Peter Kaigwa, the chaplain at the University of Nairobi, and which includes the postulator for the cause Fr Lawrence Njoroge are the ones mandated to report directly all the findings to the dicastery for the causes of saints’ in Vatican.

“The postulators are the ones who after collecting the information and after doing everything, are like a desk that communicates directly with Rome, with what is happening within the country.  The Holy See, Rome, has a style of doing things.  So these are the specific persons, the particular persons who can give direct reports.  Because, you know, as members are saying everything, you will not be surprised that even some can write their messages and send them by any new media, but those are not acknowledged. They have to pass and be signed through the legal means, the right means, through the postulators.  So that desk is very important,” he implores.

Since 2009, the process of canonization of the much-loved former Archbishop of Nairobi and Kenya’s first African Catholic bishop has yet to progress to the second stage of canonization in which the Servant of God is declared ‘Venerable’.

Born on January 31, 1923, in Chebukwa village, Bungoma County, Cardinal Otunga died on September 6, 2003, at the age of 80. He served the Church for 53 years as a priest, bishop and cardinal. This year, the anniversary celebrations of Servant of God will be held at the Queen of Apostles Parish-Ruaraka on Wednesday, September 6, 2023, beginning from 10:00 am.