Kenya's first cardinal dies

 Kenya's first and only cardinal has died. Cardinal Otunga, Archbishop Emeritus of Nairobi, died early on Saturday morning. He was 81. Among the first to arrive at the Mater Mesericordiae Hospital in Nairobi where he was admitted two months ago, were the Apostolic Nuncio to Kenya, His Excellency, Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, and Rt Rev David Kamau, an Auxiliary Bishop of Nairobi. Fr Emmanuel Ngugi who is in charge of the Holy Family Basilica, in Nairobi informed the Catholic Information Service Africa of the Cardinal's death. At the time news of Cardinal Otunga's demise was sent out, his successor in Nairobi, Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a Nzeki, was away in Kitale, Western Kenya, attending the funeral of the late Vice President Michael Kijana Wamalwa who died recently in London. Biography of Cardinal Otunga Born the son of a traditional paramount chief of the Bakhone, Wasike Lusweti Sudi, and diviner Rosa Namisi, on January 31, 1923 in Chebukwa, Kakamega Diocese in western Kenya, Cardinal Otunga was baptized into in 1935. He entered the seminary in Kakamega after graduating from Mangu High School. He finished his major seminary training in Rome where he was ordained priest on October 3, 1950. After ordination he completed his studies at the College of Propaganda Fide before returning to Kenya where he taught Theology at Kakamega Seminary for three years, and was nominated Chancellor of the Curia. He also worked with the Apostolic Delegation in Kenya. In November, 1956 Pope Pius XII named him Titular Bishop of Tacape and Auxiliary Bishop of Kisumu, where he was installed in February, 1957. Three years later Pope John XXIII appointed him Bishop of Kisii in May, 1960 where he remained until November, 1969 when Pope Paul VI made him Titular Archbishop of Bomarzo and Coadjutor Archbishop of Nairobi, with the right of succession. In October, 1971, after serving for two years under the then Archbishop of Nairobi, Most Rev John Joseph McCarthy CSSp, Otunga was promoted to the Archbishop of Nairobi. As Archbishop, he served as President of the national Episcopate and as a member of the Permanent Commission of SECAM (the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar). In 1973 Paul VI elevated him to the cardinalate, in which he received the titular church of St Gregory Barbarigo. He attended the Third Ordinary Assembly of World Synod of Bishops in the Vatican in 1974, and the Fourth and Fifth such Assemblies, in 1977 and 1980. He was a member of General Secretariat between 1980 and 1983. Cardinal Otunga was a member of the General Secretariat between 1977 and 1980, and participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978. His Eminence attended the Plenary Assembly of Sacred College of Cardinals in the Vatican in November, 1979, and was a member of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See in 1981. Cardinal Otunga attended the Special Assembly of World Synod of Bishops for Africa, at Vatican City, in 1994, where he made an intervention on 'Evangelisation as Justice and Peace'. "I am speaking in the name of the Kenya Episcopal Conference," the Cardinal said in his opening remarks. He went on to say that "peoples on the move cannot be ignored". "The displaced persons in Kenya," he said, "are those citizens rendered homeless on account of tribal violence Urbanisation is another major cause. The victims of discrimination, I think, are particularly those citizens who have to move from place to place in search of employment and this may be due to nepotism, religious discrimination or corruption in the administration of the country." "For this people it is difficult to establish stable contacts. For those who already believe, many are in great danger of losing their faith. It becomes more difficult when the situation is politically originated and perpetuated as it is the case in Kenya now. Here the Bishops have exercised their prophetic role and have spoken out to the government. It has not been easy," Cardinal Otunga said. Among Cardinal Otunga's recommendations at the Synod was the one he made to SECAM, to "come up with a guideline to work and to feel and follow up ever more in solidarity to obstacles, particularly political ones, against evangelisation as justice and peace." Cardinal Otunga retired as Archbishop of Nairobi in 1997. He chose a house for the poor as his retirement home, the Nyumba ya Wazee run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, in Nairobi. This was true to his lifestyle as Archbishop: he never went for luxury in life, and always implored his priests to beware of materialism as an obstacle to the gospel witness. Source: CISA

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