Kenya's Cardinal Otunga Dies

Archbishop Emeritus of Nairobi Was a Convert at Age 12

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 7, 2003 ( Kenyan Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga, one of the Church’s standout figures in Africa since the Second Vatican Council, died Saturday. He was 80.

The archbishop emeritus of Nairobi was hospitalized weeks ago with an illness that resulted in respiratory and kidney complications.

Upon learning of the death, John Paul II expressed his sympathy and assured his prayers so that “the Good Shepherd, in his tender love, will bring this dedicated servant speedily to the place prepared for him at the heavenly banquet.”

In the telegram to Nairobi’s current archbishop, Raphael S. Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki, the Pope expressed his gratitude “to Almighty God for the many graces bestowed on the Church through Cardinal Otunga’s long years of generous service as priest and bishop.”

Maurice Otunga was born in Chebukwa in January 1923 and baptized at age 12. Ordained a priest at 27, he was named by Pope Pius XII as auxiliary bishop of Kisumu in 1956.

In 1969, Pope Paul VI named him coadjutor of Nairobi, and in 1971, archbishop of that city. The same Pope made him a cardinal in 1973.

Father Giulio Albanese, director of MISNA, recalled that the African cardinal had as a priority the need to support the family.

“He came from a pagan family and, therefore, felt very intensely the aspect of conversion to Jesus Christ,” Father Albanese said. “I would say this was one of his dominant characteristics.”

The priest added: “He had great sensibility in regard to situations of great marginalization which are frequent in cities like Nairobi.”

The College of Cardinals now has 164 members, including 109 who could vote in a conclave for a pope.

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