Delays, Political Intrigues And Surprise in Naming of Nairobi Catholic Boss, Cardinal Prospect

Following the retirement of John Cardinal Njue as the Archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Nairobi, the Vatican is yet to name his successor six months later.

Kenya has four Catholic archdioceses, but the Nairobi ecclesiastical province attracts special interest. That explains why Pope Francis has yet to name a new head.

Fundamentally, the leader of the Catholics in Kenya, Apostolic Nuncio, His Excellency Archbishop Hubertus van Mege, will play a big role in the appointment. Mege is currently the Pope’s representative to Kenya and South Sudan.

All the three archbishops and 20 bishops of the Catholic Church in Kenya qualify to take Njue’s position.

However, experience, influence, leadership skills and controversies take centre stage in the selection.

A source who spoke to in confidence revealed that there are currently three front runners in the race to fill the position.

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“Archbishops Anthony Muheria (Nyeri), Martin Kivuva (Mombasa) and Philip Anyolo (Kisumu) are tipped to replace Njue,” he said.

The current Nairobi Auxiliary Bishop, the Rt Reverend David Kamau, whom the Pope appointed as the Apostolic Administrator after the retirement of Cardinal Njue, is another candidate.

However, our informant explained that it is not automatic that either of the four will be appointed.

“Our church pulls many surprises. It is possible they will pick someone who is not being spoken about at the moment.”

Why The Delay?

Before naming the new archbishop, the Apostolic Nuncio, must select possible candidates, do thorough research about them and consult widely.

Once he picks one, his name will be submitted to the Pope for official appointment.

But before forwarding a name, he must make sure the person is of high integrity and free from controversies.

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Once a clergyman is appointed the head of the Nairobi Archdiocese, his profile rises and is positioned to address national issues. Considering that the archdiocese is the unofficial headquarters of the church, he becomes the face of the Catholic congregation in Kenya.

“Among the front runners, I like Muheria, Despite his charisma, he will be not get the position due to his controversial role as the chairperson of the National Interfaith Council on Covid-19. Some faithful were not happy with the 56-year-old university graduate engineer for advising the government to suspend religious activities. However, if the Nuncio finds that his advisory was reasonable, he could be considered,” our source claimed.

More often than not, the Nairobi Archbishop becomes the Kenyan Cardinal once the holder of the high-ranking office exits. Njue continued with the role and is eligible to vote for the next Pope in case the Holy See is vacant.

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Also, the head of the Nairobi Archdiocese gets the honour of residing in the Basilica while all other archbishops and bishops head cathedrals.

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Robert Mwangi

I am a professional journalist trained at Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, with experience in reporting; Current Affairs, Human Interest and General News. Let's connect and engage on Facebook ( Journalist Robert Mwangi) and Twitter (@robertmwangi254)