Optimism for First Kenyan-born Saint as Church Marks Cardinal Otunga’s Memorial

Servant of God Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga
Credit: Public Domain

As the Church in Kenya celebrated Mass in memory of the Servant of God Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga last Friday, 16 years after his death, various faithful have expressed optimism in the process of his sainthood, regarding him as probably the first Kenyan-born saint in the making.

“Let us not lose hope but continue praying that the day may come and we celebrate the beatification of the servant of God,” John Cardinal Njue who presided over the memorial Mass told the congregation.

“Mine is to encourage you that the day will come,” Kenya’s second Cardinal added as he led hundreds of faithful at Holy Family Minor Basilica in marking the 16th death anniversary of Servant of God, Cardinal Otunga.

“I am very hopeful that we will one day celebrate him (Cardinal Otunga) as our saint, our first (Kenyan-born) saint,” Francisca Anthony who has fond memories of her interaction with the late Cardinal told ACI Africa at the memorial venue.

“We will reach that stage and refer to him as Blessed and then Saint Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga,” Ms. Anthony shared.

For Micah Mwangi, a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Nairobi, the possibility of asking for intercession from a native Kenyan saint is what keeps his hope alive.

“I believe in the intercessory power of saints. I imagine the moment when I will ask for the intercession of Saint Otunga,” Mwangi told ACI Africa and added, “I have so much belief that he will be Kenya’s first saint.”

The sainthood of the Servant of God who died in 2003 at the age of 80 started in 2009 when the Archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal Njue petitioned the Vatican-based Congregation for the Causes of Saints to approve the process.

The request was granted, allowing Cardinal Otunga to be referred to as ‘Servant of God’.

After death, the canonization cause involves four main stages: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed and Saint in succession.

Cardinal Otunga’s cause is now in the second phase, which according to Sr. Esther Wangui Ichugu, is known as “the Roman Phase.”

“The Roman Phase involves the writing of the ‘positio’, which is a comprehensive biography of the Servant of God,” Sr. Ichugu who is the Executive Secretary in the Archdiocesan Postulation office in Nairobi explained.

While Kenya awaits its first native saint, a number of its neighboring countries have saints.

Uganda is home to the Uganda Martyrs while Ethiopia has twin saints (Sts. Aizan and Sazan).

Sudan has St. Josephine Bakhita, a popular saint and patron of the country.

Other sainthood causes that are considered active in Kenya include that of a group of 72 Christians killed in the Ecclesiastical Province of Nyeri between 1952-1964. They were put to death for refusing to renounce their faith during the struggle for independence.

There is also the cause for three Augustinian and a group of Christians who were killed in Kenya’s Coastal town of Mombasa in 1631 for refusing to abandon their faith.

ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]