Cardinal Otunga Starts Long Road to Beatification

The much-anticipated process to beatify Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga, the widely loved and respected former Archbishop of Nairobi, started in 2009. John Cardinal Njue, the current archbishop of Nairobi archdiocese, named Fr. Anthony Bellagamba as postulator of the cause.

The Postulator

Fr Anthony Bellagamba a Consolata Missionary is a former professor of pastoral theology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). His appointment as postulator coincided with the sixth anniversary of Cardinal Otunga’s death.

The postulator coordinates the beatification process, leading a commission of church experts who collect and collate all information from written and oral testimonies about the candidate’s life. “The purpose is to collect information, any type of information, that would prove whether he practiced the evangelical virtues in a heroic way or not,” Fr Bellagamba who was 82 then, told CISA.

The process will be long and delicate, bringing under scrutiny every detail of Cardinal Otunga’s life. A key member of the beatification commission is the promoter of justice. “He represents the opposition point of view, namely, all the things that will hold the process unless the other members are able to explain why that happened,” Fr Bellagamba explained.

At the end of the diocesan phase, the archbishop of Nairobi shall deliver a ruling on the suitability of Cardinal Otunga for beatification, based on the findings of the commission. If the result is positive, the archdiocese will send all the documentation to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome. There they go over the documentation again, seeing if the negative depositions have been properly resolved. Then they have to ascertain that a miracle has been experienced by somebody through the intercession of this person. After that, the person will be declared Blessed, and he or she can be venerated publicly in the church: the picture can be affixed on the wall, mass can be celebrated in his honour, etc.”

The process might take long, but Fr Bellagamba noted that “it takes several years at the diocesan level.” Born in central Italy, Fr Bellagamba first worked in Kenya 1958-63 but came to know Cardinal Otunga well from 1984-1994 while teaching at CUEA where the cardinal was chancellor.

Fr Bellagamba, who served as the Vice General Superior of the Consolata Missionaries in Rome from 1999 to 2005 and worked in formation at Allamano House, the Consolata theological seminary in Nairobi, said Cardinal Otunga had “a great sense of the Divine; a great sense of the Supernatural. His prayer life was exceptional. His gentleness, kindness, was very, very attractive. He would take time to talk to you. He was so simple – not simplistic, because he was shrewd but he was simple in the sense that he was not double-faced. What he believed, what he thought, he said.”

During the 7th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Otunga, while addressing journalists after the memorial service, the Postulator, Fr Bellagamba said the process was at its second stage, where the committee is studying written works of as well as on the late Cardinal Otunga. “We have covered the first stage, where the Vatican has accepted the late Cardinal Otunga as Servant of God,” he explained.