Retired Catholic Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki will be buried in a private ceremony next week on Tuesday, April 7, the church has announced.
Only about 100 people will be allowed to the ceremony, locking out politicians and even Catholic clergy and faithful, whom the late archbishop mentored and led for more than 60 years in the priesthood.
According to a statement released Wednesday, a requiem mass will be held at the Holy Family Basilica from 10 am followed by burial thereafter.
“It will be a private funeral ceremony. Nor more than 100 persons will be allowed at the funeral,” the press statement said.
This is aimed at ensuring strict observance of social distancing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic which has so far infected 81 people and claimed one life in Kenya.
“Those participating will include representatives of the Mwana a’Nzeki family from Mwala area in Machakos County, Kenya Catholic Conference of Bishops, Diocese of Machakos, Diocese of Nakuru and the Archdiocese of Nairobi,” the statement said.
Since his consecration as a Bishop in 1969, Archbishop Ndingi served in Machakos, Nakuru, and Nairobi before he retired in 2007.
It is not clear whether President Uhuru Kenyatta or his deputy William Ruto will attend the private ceremony, but the government will be represented.
The private ceremony, which will last for not more than one hour, will be televised live by some media stations to allow Catholic faithful and Kenyans at large to follow the proceedings.
Archbishop Mwana a’Nzeki, who was known for his boldness and firmness in fighting for people’s rights, was taken ill in the early hours of Tuesday at the archdiocesan clergy home in Nairobi, where he was residing, and rushed to Mater Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Sources told the Nation that he had been ailing for some time but was mostly suffering from age-related complications.
He is the only Catholic bishop in Kenya to have so far celebrated episcopal golden jubilee, after serving for 50 years as a bishop.
In 1969, Pope John Paul II appointed him the bishop of Machakos at the age of 38 years, becoming the youngest bishop then.
People from his Kwa Nzeki village near Wamunyu market, which was renamed after him, celebrated their fallen son, saying he had accomplished his mission on earth of being a good cleric.
Even though it is understandable that the circumstances facing Kenya do not allow mass gatherings, many would have wished that the archbishop emeritus is accorded a befitting burial.
Dr Ezekiel Mutua, the chief executive officer of Kenya Film Classification Board, said the bishop was a towering and highly respected figure in Mwala and the entire Machakos County, just like he was nationally.
“There is never the right time to lose a loved one, but this is the wrong time for Archbishop Ndingi to leave us, rest in peace” Dr Mutua, a relative of Mwana a’Nzeki, said on Wednesday.
His sentiments were echoed by many other people from Machakos whom the Nation spoke to on Wednesday and who would have wished to attend his burial.
The firebrand cleric served for 24 years as the bishop of Nakuru, rising to national prominence and leaving a big mark in the history of Kenya.
With a larger than life image and a powerful human rights crusader, Mwana a’Nzeki remained a thorn in the flesh of the Kanu regime in Nakuru until June 1996 when he was transferred to Nairobi as a coadjutor.
Governors Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) eulogised him as a true servant of God who answered his calling as a minister of the gospel and shepherd of humankind.