Church, State Partnership Emphasized at Installation of Kenyan Bishop Dominic
By Fr. Don Bosco Onyalla (ACI Africa)
The collaboration between the Catholic Church in Kenya and the Government was a key highlight during the installation of Bishop Dominic Kimengich as the Local Ordinary of Kenya’s Eldoret Diocese, with various political leaders, including the President and his Deputy promising to foster Church and State partnership. Thousands of Catholic faithful and well-wishers gathered Saturday, February 1 at the Mother of Apostles Seminary grounds in Eldoret, to witness the installation of Bishop Kimengich, an elaborate, colourful and well-attended ceremony presided over by John Cardinal Njue, the Archbishop of Nairobi. Governors from the North Rift region of Kenya, led by the host Governor Jackson Mandago of Uasin Gishu and Josphat Nanok of Turkana were in attendance.
“Our nation is one that is dedicated to God and I look forward to working with you and the Church,” President Uhuru Kenyatta stated in a message read on his behalf by his Deputy, William Ruto.
Referencing Bishop Kimengich, President Kenyatta recalled, “In 2010, he became the auxiliary Bishop of Lodwar and in keeping to the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, he became an instrument of peace in Lodwar giving hope where there is despair.”
The President highlighted the areas of collaboration between the Church and the State saying, “I wish to reassure the church and all Christians gathered here today that the government shall continue to uplift the education, health and all other sectors.” The personal message of the Deputy President Ruto bore similar sentiments of partnership between the Church and the State.
Ruto, a native of Eldoret diocese, promised to foster collaboration saying, “as Christians of this Diocese, we will give you support your lordship; we will work with you as we recognize that there is big relationship between the Church and the State, we recognize that bond.” Addressing himself to Bishop Kimengich, the Deputy President Ruto appealed for spiritual support toward political leaders saying, “Continue praying for us who have responsibility here so that we do the will of God for our country and in fulfilling our responsibility, we may not be corrupt so that our country can grow.” Ruto added, “We believe that leadership with no corruption is what will drive the country’s growth.”
The diocese of Eldoret fell vacant following the death of Bishop Cornelius Korir on October 30, 2017. He died aged 67, leaving behind a legacy of peace building initiatives, which he accomplished through spearheading engagements between parties in conflict to foster cohesion. The diocese has been under the care of Bishop Maurice Crowley, 73-year-old native of Ireland who belongs to St. Patrick’s Society for the Foreign Missions (S.P.S.). The Papal transfer of Bishop Kimengich from Lodwar to Eldoret was made public on November 16, 2019.
“I have been listening to what you people are saying and I can summarize in one word “fuata nyayo za Askofu Korir” (follow in the footsteps of Bishop Korir). I can assure you that I will really try and do my best,” Bishop Kimengich said Saturday, February 1 in his address to the congregation that gathered to witness his installation.
He added, “I know what Bishop Korir wanted for this diocese and I can assure you that I will continue to do my best to mold the people of this diocese ... I will ensure that what Bishop Korir did continues.” “Coming from Lodwar, we have been experiencing challenges along the borders and I know what it means when there is insecurity; I know what it means to lose people even our own Christians and Muslims because of insecurity. So, it’s my prayer that we may learn to live together so that we can build our country and continue to develop,” the 58-year-old Bishop said.
Bishop Kimengich expressed his gratitude to various people. He thanked Bishop Crowley who has been the Apostolic Administrator of Eldoret Diocese for maintaining close ties with the clergy of the diocese and laity and for being “able to do his work so well.”
He thanked “the people of the diocese of Lodwar because they have made me what I am today. I have lived with them for the last ten years and we worked together even with the leadership there to ensure that we are solving the issues of the people of Turkana.” “I also thank the late Bishop Korir for the pastoral work he did because if you look at the parishes in this diocese, they have 66 parishes; that’s a sign that pastoral work was well done and I am ready to work so that the word of God is spread everywhere,” Bishop Kimengich said.
At the Saturday event, the representative of Pope Francis in Kenya, Archbishop Bert van Megen announced that the Holy Father had appointed Bishop Kimengich Apostolic Administrator of Lodwar Diocese. Meanwhile, on Friday, January 31, Bishop Kimengich made a grand entry into Eldoret diocese, received by thousands of people, including clergy, men and women religious ministering in the diocese as well as the laity, among them, political leaders.
The people gathered at Moi’s Bridge, the border of Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu and Kakamega Counties, which was chosen for the entry of the Bishop, bringing business to a standstill as natives stood by the roadside, waving at Bishop Kimengich. A ceremony of receiving the Bishop was conducted, marked by prayers, singing, and dancing. Bishop Kimengich also performed the ritual of kissing the ground as he entered his new ecclesiastical jurisdiction, symbolizing humility and readiness to serve all the people of God in Eldoret diocese.
“The church will not discriminate anybody. We will work with everybody so that the church moves forward,” Bishop Kimengich said at Moi’s Bridge and added, “I thank the people of Lodwar for welcoming and working with me in peace efforts when I served in Turkana.” During the Friday event, Governor Josphat Nanok of Turkana acknowledged Bishop Kimengich’s role in uniting parties in conflict within the County of Turkana and remarked, “I did not want Bishop Kimengich to leave but we have accepted the Pope’s decision. We thank him for the work he did in Turkana.”
Accompanied by Bishop Maurice Crowley of the neighboring Kitale diocese, Bishop Kimengich was, on Friday, January 31, received at St. Teresa’s Catholic Parish, Moi’s Bridge before being escorted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral through Eldoret town in a convoy of over 100 cars and at least 20 buses. “I wish a part of the good heart of Bishop Kimengich could be passed on to our political leaders in our country,” the Senator of Baringo, Gideon Moi remarked during the Saturday event that attracted over 10,000 people.