Maurice Michael Otunga

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His Eminence
Maurice Michael Otunga
Servant of God
Archbishop Emeritus of Nairobi
Archdiocese Nairobi
Metropolis Nairobi
See Nairobi
In office 24 October 1971 - 14 May 1997
Predecessor John Joseph McCarthy
Successor Raphael Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki
Other posts Cardinal-Priest of San Gregorio Barbarigo alle Tre Fontane (1973-2003)
Ordination 3 October 1950
by Pietro Fumasoni Biondi
Consecration 25 February 1957
by James Robert Knox
Created Cardinal 5 March 1973
by Pope Paul VI
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Birth name Maurice Michael Otunga
Born 31 January 1923
Chebukwa, Kenya
Died 6 September 2003 (aged 80)
Nairobi, Kenya
Previous post
  • Titular Bishop of Tacape (1956-1960)
  • Auxiliary Bishop of Kisumu (1956-1960)
  • Bishop of Kisii (1960-1969)
  • Military Vicar of Kenya (1964-1986)
  • Titular Archbishop of Bomarza (1969-1971)
  • Coadjutor of Nairobi (1969-1971)
  • President of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference (1970-1976)
  • Military Ordinary of Kenya (1981-1997)
Motto Per ipsum et cum ipso et in ipso ("Through Him, with Him and in Him")
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Title as Saint Servant of God
Styles of
Maurice Otunga
External Ornaments of a Cardinal Bishop.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

Maurice Michael Otunga (31 January 1923 – 6 September 2003) was a Roman Catholic cardinal and the Archbishop Emeritus of Nairobi who was also the Military Ordinary Emeritus for Kenya.

He was born in Chebukwa in diocese of Kakamega in 1923 and died in 2003 at the age of 80. His cause of canonization has commenced and he has been granted the title of Servant of God.


Early life and ordination[edit]

Maurice Michael Otunga was born in 1923 as the son of Wasike Lusweti Sudi and Rosa Namisi. He was given the name of "Otunga" which meant a staff the old lean on for support. He converted to Roman Catholicism and was baptized in 1935 where he was given the name of "Maurice Michael".

He studied at Mill High School in Kibabu from 1931 to 1933 and later at another school in Sijei from 1933 to 1934. He finished his studies at Mang'u High School and obtained a licentiate in theology in September 1951.

He entered the seminary of Kakamega where he began his philosophy and theology studies which he finished at the Gaba national seminary of Kampala in Uganda.

He transferred to Rome and was a student at the Pontifical Urban University. It was there that he was ordained to the priesthood on 3 October 1950. He also obtained a doctorate in theology. Those further studies spanned from 1950 to 1951. He travelled in Europe for several months in 1951 and visited northern Italy, Paris, Lourdes, England and Ireland.

Upon his return to Kenya, he was a theology professor for three years at the major diocesan seminary of Kisumu, while he also served as vice-chancellor of the diocesan curia. He served there from 1951 to 1954, also acting as the secretary to the Titular Archbishop of Melitene James Knox from 1954 to 1956.


On 17 November 1956, Pope Pius XII nominated him as the Auxiliary Bishop to the Bishop of Kisumu. He was also made the Titular Bishop of Tacape. He was then consecrated to the episcopate on 25 February 1957. Four years later Pope John XXIII transferred him to the new Diocese of Kisii where for nine years he dedicated his pastoral ministry.

Otunga attended the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and was made the Military Vicar of Kenya in 1964. He was promoted as the Titular Archbishop of Bomarza in 1969. In addition, on 15 November 1969, Pope Paul VI nominated him as the Coadjutor of the Archdiocese of Nairobi.

He became Archbishop of Nairobi on 24 October 1971, having been named coadjutor with the right of succession. He was the Vice-President of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) and a member of the permanent committee of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). He also participated in a various assemblies of the Synod of Bishops and had taken part in the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod. He was the Military Ordinary for Kenya from 1981 until 29 August 1997.

Cardinalate and death[edit]

He was created and proclaimed a cardinal by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of 5 March 1973 as the Cardinal-Priest of San Gregorio Barbarigo alle Tre Fontane. He attended the Synod of Bishops in 1974 and 1977. He also participated in the papal conclave of August 1978 and the conclave of October 1978 that saw the elections of Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II respectively.

Otunga also participated in other sessions of the Synod of Bishops in 1980 and 1994. He submitted his resignation of his archdiocese in 1997 and also the ordinariate that same year. After he retired, he moved into an aged care facility and lost his ability to vote in papal conclaves after he turned 80.

At the Synod of Bishops in 1994, Otunga opened the assembly and stated:

"Peoples on the move cannot be ignored. The displaced persons in Kenya are those citizens rendered homeless on account of tribal violence. Urbanization 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 these 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 is the case in Kenya now. Here the bishops have exercised their prophetic role and have spoken out to the government. It is not easy".[1]

Otunga died on 6 September 2003 at 6:45am of cardiac arrest in a hospital of Nairobi. He was buried in Nairobi.

Cause of beatification[edit]

The cause for his canonization was first announced in February 2005, with revelations that plans for the process were commencing. His body was reburied in secret at 1:00pm on 24 August 2005.

The process on a diocesan level commenced in September 2009. This bestowed upon him the title of Servant of God. On 28 September 2013, inquiries for Cardinal Otunga's sainthood were completed in Nairobi after interviewing over 160 witnesses who supported his beatification.

The validation of the diocesan process was signed on 9 May 2014 and the cause now has entered the "Roman Phase". This means that the Positio - which documents his life of heroic virtue - must be compiled and sent to Rome to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for evaluation.



In 1996, he publicly burned condoms in Uhuru Park, Nairobi campaigning against the use of condoms. He deemed them to be contrary to the teachings of the church, especially as an affront to the encyclical Humanae Vitae by Pope Paul VI.[2]


  1. ^ "Otunga, Michael Maurice, Kenya, Roman Catholic". 2005. Retrieved 10 April 2015. 
  2. ^ The Standard, 25 October 2006: Catholics not about to allow use of the condom

External links[edit]