Skip to comments.Row erupts over Cardinal Otunga reburial
Posted on 02/09/2005 1:33:49 PM PST by nickcarraway
Plans by the Catholic Church to turn the late Cardinal Maurice Otunga into the first Kenyan saint may hit a snag.
This was after the Bukusu, community, from which the late prelate hailed, yesterday expressed stiff opposition to the exhumation of Otungas remains for reburial, while some legal experts warned of a possible backlash over the move.
The Bukusu, led by members of Dini ya Musambwa sect, vowed to use all possible means to block the exhumation, arguing that the move was likely to bring a curse on the community.
"We will not allow this exercise to take place. Otunga is our son and after he was buried, his peace should not be disturbed again," said Wamalwa Manai, the sect elder.
Catholic Archbishop Ndingi Mwana aNzeki announced in Nairobi on Sunday that Otungas body would be exhumed and reburied in a process that is expected to lead to his being declared a saint.
Ndingi said the body would be exhumed from St Austins cemetery and reburied at Resurrection Gardens in Karen, Nairobi. Manai, speaking at Tongaren market in Kimilili, took a swipe at the Bukusu Council of Elders and MPs for doing nothing to prevent the communitys culture from "being raped by outsiders".
"It is a taboo in our community to exhume a dead body especially after such a long period has elapsed since the burial. Those agitating for such an exercise must understand that we will oppose their move since it will make our ancestors angry," he said.
Otunga died on September 6, 2003 aged 80. In his will, he indicated that he wanted to be buried at St Austins cemetery and his land in Bungoma donated to the church.
However, Catholic faithful in the district supported the plan, saying it was necessary as it would lead to the late Cardinal attaining sainthood.
"We should not stop important practices observed in the church for thousands of years just because we want to preserve our culture," said Agatha Wanyonyi, a faithful at Sinoko Parish in Chebukaka Diocese. Nairobi Catholic faithful also supported the planned exhumation and reburial, saying it was "biblical and plausible."
However, opponents dismissed it as illegal, meaningless and ritualistic."
The critics said Otunga could be canonised without the relocation of his remains, as was the case with Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Reverend Oliver Kisaka, the deputy secretary-general of the National Christian Churches of Kenya said the exhumation was insignificant.
" It doesnt make a difference. It only rings in the mind of those who hold onto a ritual called canonisation," he claimed.
Kisaka, who is a theologian by training, argues that the exhumation of Otungas body would be defeatist because it would be merely performed on his remains.
By Andrew Teyie
The late Maurice Cardinal Otunga is set to become Kenyas first saint.
The Catholic Church will exhume and rebury his body in a process that is expected to lead to his being declared a saint.
Archbishop Ndingi Mwana aNzeki announced the canonisation plans for Otunga at a mass at the Assumption of Mary Catholic Church in Umoja in Nairobi.
Before one is made a saint one must first be beautified and canonised. Beautification is a Papal authorisation of a cult in honour of a deceased Christian.
It is a stage in the process of canonisation involving a declaration by the Pope that the candidate is enjoying heavenly bliss and can be venerated locally.
Canonisation is a papal declaration that a deceased Christian is a saint. Originally, this was a matter for the local church, but since the 12th Century it has been restricted to the Holy Father to canonise saints.
It is the official declaration by the Church that a deceased Christian of attested virtue is a saint, to be honoured as such, and worth of imitation by the faithful.
Canonisation also involves declaration by the Pope that a person who died as a martyr and or who practised Christian virtue to a heroic degree is with God and is worthy of honour and imitation.
Ndingi said Otungas body will be exhumed from St Austins and be re-buried at the Resurrection Gardens in Karen. "We want to transfer his body to the Resurrection Gardens," said Ndingi during the mass.
He said a church would be built at the Karen Gardens where people can worship in a serene environment.
Ndingi, who appealed for individual contributions to attain the goal, said this would mark the first step towards making Otunga a saint.
"As soon as we get permission from the Government to exhume the body, we will start the process. It does not matter how much it will cost," he said.
Ndingi also moved to pacify warring factions at Assumption of Mary Catholic Church who have split the congregation down the middle.
He warned one group against interfering with the mass.
"The worst thing is to interfere with the mass. They must come and negotiate or else they are walking on one leg," Ndingi said.
The faction pits close to 100 choir members from St Leo, St Gregory and St Basil churches against the Father in Charge Michael Komu.
Komu fell out with sections of the congregation when he disbanded the choir and asked them to re-apply a year ago.
"We refused to re-apply because, he sought to know some personal things in the letter. One of them is where you work, whether you are married and how many children," said Chrisantus Makori, the choirs vice chairman.
The group petitioned Ndingi who sent a team to resolve the crisis. The team comprises Fathers Maloba Wesonga and Dominic Wamugunda.
And yesterday, Ndingi asked them to repent and to see him on Tuesday at his office if they have a problem.
" Songs are prayers. They must be composed and ratified by the priest. Not all songs can be ratified and sang in church, he said.
The group denied claims that they had composed songs which were against the Catholic faith.