Prayer for the Beatification of the Servant of God
First Anniversary, Church Remembers Beloved Cardinal
The first anniversary of the death of Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga, the widely respected former Catholic Archbishop of Nairobi, was marked on Monday, September 6, 2004, with Eucharistic celebration at the Holy Family Basilica in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, followed by prayers at the graveside where he was buried.
The 1:15 pm anniversary was presided over by the Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana ‘a Nzeki of Nairobi, assisted by Auxiliary Bishop Anthony Mukobo Ireri and several priests of the archdiocese. Archbishop Ndingi described Cardinal Otunga as being a “simple and humble” priest who lived all his life for Jesus Christ.
“If we were allowed to proclaim somebody a saint by acclamation, we would have done that for Otunga,” Archbishop Ndingi said, adding that the formal process to proclaim the late cardinal a saint could only be initiated by the Vatican.
“He was a wonderful example of what it means to be a good person and priest,” the Archbishop said. Word had already started to filter calling for the commencement of a process towards Cardinal Otunga’s beatification.
Family Satisfied with Otunga’s Re-burial
The immediate family of the late Maurice Michael Cardinal Otunga was duly consulted about the exhumation and reburial of the remains of the former Archbishop of Nairobi. A nephew of the Cardinal’s, George Nabutola, said though moving the remains to another place contravened traditional Bukusu customs, however, the family accepted that the Church had valid reasons for doing so.
“The Church had its own reasons for moving the body to another place,” Nabutola told CISA in Nairobi on the Tuesday of September 6, 2005, during the second anniversary celebrations of the Cardinal’s death. In August 2005, the Archdiocese of Nairobi moved the Cardinal’s remains to a special chapel at Resurrection Garden, a quiet retreat centre in the city.The unannounced exhumation and reburial caught many Kenyans by surprise. But Nabutola said the exercise was not done “secretly” as the media had reported but “privately.”
“This is the second phase. 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 now works 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.