Nuncio in Kenya Cautions Predecessors against Interfering with Affairs of Successors

Archbishop Hubertus van Megen blesses congregants at the installation of Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba as the Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Kisumu. Credit: ACI Africa

The representative of the Holy Father in Kenya has cautioned Catholic Church leaders who have been succeeded against meddling in the affairs of their successors and urged the former to leave room for the latter to start a “new chapter” in their new respective ministries. 

In his homily during the Saturday, March 19 installation of the Local Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Kisumu in Kenya, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen urged predecessors to always “remain in the background” and to only come in when “explicitly” asked to help.

“It is important that the outgoing Bishop, Priest, Superior, or any other leader leaves room for the leader who comes in, to avoid many comments or, God forbid, directly intervene in the government of the new Bishop,” Archbishop van Megen said during the installation of Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba.

He added, “It is a beautiful sign of humility and brotherhood when the former Bishop remains in the background. He will only come in when explicitly requested by the new Bishop because with every new Bishop, God starts a new chapter in the story of that Diocese.”

The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya who also represents the Holy Father in South Sudan reiterated that with the installation of Archbishop Muhatia for Kisumu Archdiocese, the Lord was starting a new chapter for the Kenyan Archdiocese.


He said that just like King David in the Bible was not allowed to build a temple for the Lord, so are some leaders unsuccessful in implementing Church projects.

Credit: ACI Africa

Archbishop van Megen cautioned Catholic Church leaders who do not succeed in their initiatives against feeling frustrated and blaming their Parishes, Dioceses and communities for their projects that did not pick up or thrive.

“David wasn't allowed to build the temple for the Lord. Maybe you have been working in your Parish or Diocese or Congregation for many years and some aspects of your pastoral work never developed; things never work; nothing moves; this can be a source of frustration and you feel that whatever I work doesn’t work,” the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya said.

He added, “You have been trying for a few years but it is without result. God’s grace seems not to be with you in that particular undertaking. In other words, God did not want you to build that temple.”

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The native of the Netherlands who has served as Apostolic Nuncio since 2014 said that where things do not work for a particular Church leader, things may start to work when someone else with “another approach and personality” is brought in to take charge of the Parish, Diocese or community.

“After a while, you are transferred. You may even ask to be transferred thinking the Parish is either not good or the people do not like you or the community doesn’t accept you. But then your successor comes and the minute you leave, things turn better. While you were convinced that certain things could never work, with your successor, they certainly do. Things are taking root and your successor might have another approach and personality and under his or her leadership, projects that have been dead for years suddenly gain life again,” Archbishop van Megen said.

Credit: ACI Africa

The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya who doubles as the Permanent Observer to United Nations Environment Program and Human Settlements Program went on cautioned the people of God against living such “a Godforsaken life” as the one that David was living, thinking that he was untouchable.

He said, “It's sometimes like the life of King David; when he felt his omnipotence, the worst happened; he fell for Bathsheba, committed adultery and murdered someone. He thought that since was all powerful, he'd get away with everything. His life gets so confused and the child that is born dies.”


The Apostolic Nuncio said that King David was forgiven with the birth of the would-be King Solomon who restored the peace that had been lost.

“Solomon is the man who restores the lost peace and even builds the Lord's temple,” he said, and added, “The same can happen to any Church leader when they enjoy privileges and lose sight of God. This happens when the struggle for power, wealth and desires take root.”

“To live like God doesn't exist happens to all of us. We give importance to power, money and other desires while God takes the last place in our lives. God is only called upon when it's convenient, sometimes when we have to look at death in the eye,” he said.

According to the 60-year-old Catholic Church diplomat, members of the Clergy and women and men Religious sometimes fall in the same temptation to yearn for material gain.

Credit: ACI Africa

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“When we claim to have given our lives to Jesus, are we always honest with ourselves? When we do a lot of development projects and claim it is for the glory of God, is this always so? Do we always involve God in the development projects? Sometimes, the projects are more about me, about my legacy than for God,” he said.

The Nairobi-based Archbishop added, “A leader who struggles with sin and their weakness should listen to the story of David and know that there is always consolation in the midst of darkness.”

Like the Archdiocese of Kisumu that is starting a new chapter with the incoming Archbishop, a new chapter was also opened in the scripture with the coming of Mary and Joseph as the foster parents of Jesus, Archbishop van Megen said. 

He said that the clan of Joseph, however much important it might have been, “doesn’t really matter in the Gospel.”

The Dutch-born Apostolic Nuncio added, in reference to Joseph’s royal and Priestly descent, “The whole long genealogy, the whole family tree doesn’t really count… This might be a message for all of us that when you want to be a leader in God’s Church, you have to step away from your clan, your family, your tribe and your personal interests.”

“A leader in the Church, whether a Christian faithful, in a Congregation, a Priest or Bishop, is not called to represent his family, his clan. He's called into a new family. He becomes a citizen of the kingdom of God,” the representative of the Holy Father in Kenya and South Sudan said. 

A leader, he further said, is not called into a life of comfort or a place to develop his career.

Credit: ACI Africa

“A leader in the Church should follow the example of St. Joseph and be a steward of the Church. One has to be aware that he's called to the service of the Church,” the Nuncio said. 

He went on to emphasize, “Nothing of the Church belongs to the Bishop; but on the contrary, the Bishop belongs to the Church.”

Addressing himself to the newly installed Local Ordinary during the March 19 event, the Apostolic Nuncio said, “Dear Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba, may St. Joseph be your intercessor and your example. May he intercede for you in your delicate task of leading the Archdiocese.”

“May you give your life for the Church, and may you be supported by the Christians of the Archdiocese of Kisumu and the Clergy of this great Metropolitan city, which you are called to serve. St. Joseph, protector of the Holy Church, pray for us. Amen,” Archbishop van Megen implored. 

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.