Kenyans Remember Their 1st Bishop

Process of Beatification Continues for Cardinal Otunga

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NAIROBI, Kenya, SEPT. 8, 2011 ( As Kenyans marked the eighth anniversary of the death of their first bishop, archbishop and cardinal on Tuesday, the bishop of Kitui recommended asking the cardinal’s intercession for a miracle.

Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga (1923-2003) is a key figure in the history of the Church in Kenya.

Maurice Michael Otunga was born in Chebukwa village of Western Kenya, the son of a tribal chief. He was baptized in 1935. Soon after, he expressed his desire to be a priest. He studied in Rome with the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and was ordained in 1950.

In 1956, when he was 33, Pope Pius XII named him the auxiliary bishop of Kisumu, making him the youngest bishop in the world at the time. In 1960, he was named bishop of Kisii and in 1969, coadjutor archbishop of Nairobi. He served as archbishop of Nairobi from 1971 to 1997, being named a cardinal in 1973.

He was the president of the Episcopal Conference of Kenya, and worked in two Vatican congregations: Institutes of Consecrated Life and Evangelization of Peoples.

He was one of the few African prelates to attend the Second Vatican Council.

On the anniversary of his death Tuesday, Bishop Anthony Muheria of Kitui remembered the cardinal «as a great and distinguished son of Africa, son of a chief, an authentic Christian, but one who was fully conscious of being first and foremost a son of God.»

The bishop recalled that in May 1981, when Pope John Paul II had decided to consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary but was incapacitated from the attempt on his life, the Pope delegated the duty to this young cardinal from the developing world.

The bishop recalled the cardinal at the end of his life celebrating Mass, at one point supporting himself on his elbows as his legs were too weak to sustain him.

«His was a truly Catholic priesthood lived to the full with a consciousness and nobility of being the anointed one. He was always a prince, a gentleman, another Christ,» Bishop Muheria said.

«We should ask his intercession for the issues that face our country, for the unity that eludes us, for the issues that face the family, and especially to intercede for the threats that challenge life, particularly the unborn,» he continued. «What is needed now for the process of beatification to go forward is a miracle and we should pray for one.»

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