“Do not consider abortion, run to my office for help”: Kenyan Bishop at His Installation

Outgoing Kericho Bishop, Emmanuel Okombo hands over the crosier to Bishop Alfred Rotich. The crosier is a sign of a bishop's authority and jurisdiction.
Credit: ACI Africa

The plight of girls in crisis pregnancies within the Ecclesiastical territory covered by Kenya’s Kericho Diocese was a key highlight of Bishop Alfred Rotich’s speech during his installation Saturday, February 15. The Kenyan Bishop, previously the Local Ordinary of the Military Ordinariate in Kenya, called on girls facing the challenge to seek help through the Family Life office in his diocese, and not consider abortion.

“Do not consider abortion, run to my office for help,” Bishop Rotich said Saturday, addressing an estimated congregation of 10,000 people, including 15 Kenyan Prelates and the Apostolic Nuncio in Kenya and South Sudan, Archbishop Bert van Megen, who gathered at the Kericho Teachers’ Training College grounds to witness his installation as the Bishop of Kericho diocese.

Speaking to ACI Africa Saturday evening, the Kenyan Prelate who is a native of Kericho diocese expressed his awareness of high teenage pregnancy rates in Kericho County as well as the prevailing situations that seem to compel girls in crisis pregnancies to procure abortions.

“There are places like Marie Stopes and some clinics that are always open (for abortion),” Bishop Rotich said and appealed, “We need to encourage teenagers that even if they get pregnant, they call us (Family Life office) and the protection of the unborn child will be catered for.”

The girls who get pregnant need “to be concerned about life and willing to carry the pregnancy to term,” the Kenyan Prelate said and added, “The concern is, we need to protect life and encourage especially the young people to learn about chastity.” 

The Global Childhood Report 2019 by Save the Children has ranked Kenya the third highest birth rate of teenage girls among the East African Community member countries.

According to Kenya’s Ministry of Health 2016 Fact Sheet dubbed Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health in Kericho County, which is part of the Ecclesial jurisdiction of the newly installed Bishop Rotich, “about 1 in 5 (21%) of girls aged 15-19 years in Kericho County have begun childbearing; almost two times higher than the national level.”

Referencing the soon-to-be launched 2020 Lenten Campaign by the Catholic Bishops in Kenya under the theme, “Stewardship for a transformed nation, my obligation”, the 62-year-old Bishop told ACI Africa, “human dignity is one of those obligations.”

To facilitate the operations of the family life apostolate in his new diocese, Bishop Rotich who is also the Vice-Chair of the Family Life National Office at the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), dedicated a Toyota Lexus car gifted to him by Christians of Kericho Diocese to “the unborn child,” and offered it to the Family Life Diocesan Office.

“I bless and dedicate this vehicle to the protection of the unborn child and offer it to the Family Life Diocesan Office,” the Prelate said as he blessed the brand-new car.

In an exclusive interview with ACI Africa, Bishop Rotich who actively participated in the side events against the controversial 2019 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) said in reference to the vehicle, “It is a gift from the Christians and I offered it to the Family Life Diocesan Office because family life is an apostolate close to my heart.”

Speaking on behalf of the Catholic Bishops in Kenya at the Saturday installation event, KCCB Chairman, Archbishop Philip Anyolo said, "We assure Bishop Rotich and all of you that the Church in Kenya through the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) is together with you.”

Archbishop Anyolo added, “We are really happy and we pray together that this diocese that God continues to guide through his shepherds, Bishop Okombo and now Bishop Rotich who has a vast experience of the whole country will also be a pillar of unity within the Church and the whole country.”

“We assure you of our prayers and cooperation," Archbishop Anyolo who is the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Kisumu Archdiocese concluded.

At the event, Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto called on the Church to pray for the country. Responding to this call, Bishop Rotich said during his speech, “I want to encourage you to be full of hope, that we will continue praying and tell the truth and be close to our governance, both in the national and devolved governments.”

The colorful event, which was presided over by Archbishop Martin Kivuva of Mombasa Archdiocese also brought together religious leaders from other denominations including the National Council of Churches in Kenya (NCCK) Secretary General Canon Chris Kinyanjui, Anglican Bishop of Kericho Diocese, Ernest Ng’eno, Bishop Robert Lagat of Africa Gospel Church (AGC) Kenya, and Imam Abdulah Kiptanui, among others.

Born on July 27, 1957 in Bomet County, Bishop Rotich was ordained a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru on November 18, 1983. 

In March 1996, Pope St. John Paul II appointed him as the Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi Archdiocese and Titular Bishop of Iulum Carcinum. The following year, he was appointed the first full time Bishop of Kenya’s Military Ordinariate.

He retired from the military in December 2016 having attained the age of 55, which is the maximum for military service in Kenya. He was in the rank of a Colonel when he retired, the highest rank for a religious person in Kenya’s military.

Bishop Rotich is taking over from 77-year-old Bishop Emmanuel Okombo who retires after shepherding the diocese for 16 years.

Erected in December 1995, Kericho is one of the five Dioceses that constitute the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Nairobi. Today, the diocese covers Kericho and Bomet counties.

Existing under the patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the 4,800-square-kilometer diocese has 48 parishes run by diocesan clergy and members of different religious orders and Institutes of Apostolic Life who reach out to an estimated 249,770 Catholics.

A history of the diocese seen by ACI Africa indicates that the diocese has 85 members of clergy, 50 of them religious, 35 diocesan, with one diocesan priest ministering in Australia.

In his service, Bishop Rotich will be guided by the Episcopal motto, “Veni Creator Spiritus,” meaning, "Come Creator Spirit."

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]