Kenya’s First Cardinal Headed to Sainthood Hailed as “a great gift to the Church”

Archbishop Philip Anyolo of Nairobi Archdiocese flanked by John Cardinal Njue (left) during the memorial Holy Mass of the Servant of God, Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga celebrated at the Resurrection garden, Karen, Nairobi on 6 September 2022. Credit: Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi/Facebook

Kenya’s first Cardinal, the Servant of God, Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga, who is being considered for Sainthood, has been hailed as “a great gift to the Church” in the East African country and the world.

In his message on the Tuesday, September 6 memorial of Cardinal Otunga, the Vice Postulator for the course of the Cardinal’s beatification exuded confidence that the Cardinal’s journey to Sainthood was on the right course, and called for prayers for the process toward the stage of Venerable.

“We are here to give thanks because of the gift of the servant of God,” Fr. Lawrence Njoroge said during the event that was held at the Resurrection Garden in Karen, Nairobi. 

Fr. Njoroge added in reference to the Kenyan-born Cardinal who died after suffering a cardiac arrest on 6 September 2003 at the age of 80, “Without a doubt, he was a great gift to the world; he was a great gift to the Church; he was a great gift to the Archdiocese of Nairobi and therefore we wanted to remember him.”

“We have remembered him with a lot of joy and gratitude. We will also be praying so that the process of the servant of God may make progress,” the member of the Clergy of Kenya’s Nairobi Archdiocese said.


He added, “Let us therefore pray so that the servant of God becomes Venerable. That is our invitation. That is our call. And we should be happy doing that because the servant of God, was, and is a great person. He was a great example to be followed by all people in the world.”

Cardinal Otunga’s cause for canonization started in 2009 when the then Archbishop of Nairobi, John 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”. Three years ago, various faithful who participated in the late Cardinal’s memorial Mass expressed optimism in the process of his sainthood, regarding him as probably the first Kenyan-born saint in the making.

And during Holy Mass last year marking 18 years since the Servant of God Cardinal Otunga died, Fr. Njoroge remembered the Kenyan Cardinal for his service to the people of God whom he loved “very very dearly.”

“If there was a person who loved the Church and loved it very very dearly, it was the Servant of God, Maurice Cardinal Otunga,” the Catholic Priest who was appointed Vice Postulator of the cause in December 2019 said.

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Fr. Njoroge also described the Servant of God as one who “loved the word providence”, saying, “Whatever he did was in the context of providence, that is, of the goodness of God, of the graciousness of God.”

He added, in reference to the Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry as Auxiliary Bishop of Kisumu in Kenya in February 1957, “I have no doubt that not long ago, a good and holy man lived among us.”

“Let us pray that the process of his beatification will be successful,” he said during the 6 September 2021 memorial Mass that was celebrated at the Holy Family Minor Basilica of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

In his September 6 message, the Vice Postulator for the course of Cardinal Otunga’s beatification reported that the Servant of God’s journey to becoming Venerable was making good progress in Rome.

“As many people know, he is now a servant of God and the conditions that are required for the promotion to the next stage which is Venerable are being studied by the Postulator in Rome together with the congregation that deals with the making of saints,” Fr. Njoroge said, adding, “The official biography has already been written and submitted to them. The official biography is going to be included in a larger work and our postulator will be presenting that very soon.”


The Sainthood cause of the Servant of God Cardinal Otunga is in the Roman Phase, which involves the examination and verification of documents (evidence) submitted by the petitioner. 

These documents are examined by a group of theologians and reviewed by another group of experts. If the review is favorable, the documents are submitted to the Holy Father for approval and subsequent issuance of a Papal decree confirming the virtuous life of the candidate to whom he confers the title, “Venerable”.

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.