Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya Challenges Catholic Bishops to Go Out “where the people are”

Archbishop Hubertus van Megen imposes the Pallium on Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of the Archdiocese of Kisumu in Kenya. Credit: Courtesy Photo

The representative of the Holy Father in Kenya has challenged Catholic Bishops not to limit themselves to “big celebrations”, but “to go where people are” and to bring those lost in sin back to the community of God.

In his homily at the imposition of the Pallium on Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba of the Archdiocese of Kisumu in Kenya, Archbishop Hubertus van Megen explained that the vestment should be a reminder that the Archbishop is the shepherd of the people of God and should go out to look for them when they are lost.

“The Pallium of wool on the shoulders of the Archbishop reminds us of Christ the Good Shepherd who takes the last sheep on his shoulders to bring it back to the flock. Similarly, a Bishop needs to go out and look for the lost sheep; the sheep that is lost in darkness and in sin,” Archbishop van Megen said during the July 30 event.

He added, “A Bishop therefore needs to be among the people and with the people. He needs to go where the people are, not only in church, not only at the big celebrations, but most importantly at everyday events, at their workplaces, in school, at their homes, at the football game, at a feast and maybe even in the bar. The shepherd needs to be where the people are.”

The Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya who also represents the Holy Father in South Sudan noted that the first and foremost calling of any Bishop or Priest is to be with the lowly.


“The Bishop should be with the man or woman who is despised by society, despised by the Church community, one who has been expelled. These are the lost sheep that Christ is looking for,” the Dutch-born Vatican diplomat said.

He added, “The first responsibility of a Good Shepherd, of whom the Pallium is a symbol, is to the poor, the oppressed. It is about taking care of the smell of the sheep, which Pope Francis talks about.”

The Nuncio in Kenya observed that it is the role of the Archbishop to guide the people in truth, adding that a Local Ordinary can only lead in truth when he himself lives by that truth “and steps away from any treachery or deceit.”

“A Bishop should be transparent in his life,” Archbishop van Megen who started his service as Apostolic Nuncio in Sudan in 2014 said during the imposition of the Pallium on Archbishop Muhatia at Tumsifu Centre of Kisumu Archdiocese.

The Kenyan Archbishop was installed as the Local Ordinary of Kisumu on March 19 and received the Pallium from Pope Francis during Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, on June 29, at St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican.

More in Africa

In his homily during the imposition of the Pallium on Archbishop Muhatia, the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya noted that the event was “a sign of closeness of the Holy Father Pope Francis to His Grace Maurice Muhatia Makumba.”

“Considering that the Pallium is a sign of trust, of closeness of the Holy Father, it would come as no surprise that the oath of allegiance or obedience has been pledged,” Archbishop van Megen said. 

He added, “With the imposition of the Pallium, the Holy Father is saying to the people of Kisumu ‘this is my son, listen to him’, and therefore in the same way as His Grace Maurice Muhatia Makumba pledged to the Holy Father, we all as well here today want to pledge our allegiance to the Archbishop because we know that in him, the Universal Church is present. Through him, the Pope is present today in a special way.”

Archbishop van Megen negated the belief that with the Pallium, the Archbishop assumes a position of privilege.

“In accepting the Pallium, the Archbishop has become a friend to the Holy Father and we people might want to put the Archbishop on a pedestal for that because we feel that this man is so important and powerful. But that’s not the case,” he said, and explained, in reference to the vestment, “The material it is made of is very rough. It is very simple material. The wool of sheep.”


“The wool of the Pallium may remind us of the appeal of the Holy Father to all Bishops and Priests to take on the smell of the sheep; to become one with the flock of Christ. And of course, in order for that to happen, the Bishop needs to step down from his position of privilege; he needs to do away with privileges and perceived importance.”

The representative of the Holy Father in Kenya and South Sudan continued, “A Bishop should therefore not claim any VIP treatment; a Bishop needs to be with his sheep, to be approachable. A Bishop should not load it over them.”

He said that the Pallium that is woven with many threads of wool should remind the Archbishop of his duty to foster communion and “to bring the body of Christ together.”

In his prayer for the Archbishop of Kisumu, the Holy Father’s representative in Kenya said, “Dear Archbishop Maurice Muhatia Makumba, may the Pallium be a symbol of unity and a sign of your communion with the Apostolic See, a bond of love and an incentive of courage. On the day of the coming and the manifestation of our great God and chief shepherd Jesus Christ may you, and the entire flock entrusted to you, be clothed with immortality and glory.”

In his speech at the ceremony, Archbishop Muhatia appealed for peace in the country that is edging close to the general elections slated for August 9.

(Story continues below)

“We are requesting for restraint in the remaining few days of the campaigns; restraint by the leaders in the campaigns pertaining to what they say, how they say it, even with the body language,” Archbishop Muhatia said.

He added, “We request for restraint among the Kenyans. Kenya is a very lovely country.”

“We have witnessed in the last 10 years of peace how much progress has been made, achieved and seen in our respective places, including our own city of Kisumu. We want to see more of this peace so that development may reach the villages of every county. We can only achieve this by maintaining peace,” the Archbishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in Kenya’s Nakuru Diocese in February 2010 said.

He encouraged the Kenyan electorate to come out in large numbers to vote in their preferred candidates, noting that failure to participate in the elections would deny their candidates an opportunity to lead.

“We ask you to maintain peace. But we also ask you to go out and vote on the 9th. Please, don’t sit on your vote because to sit on your vote is to sit on your leader who will never be,” the 54-year-old Kenyan Archbishop said.

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.