The bishop of the conflict-ridden Diocese of Nakuru in Kenya was informed of his promotion to Archbishop of Nyeri in a recent surprise meeting with the apostolic nuncio in Nairobi, the Daily Nation reports.
Bishop Peter Kairo had joined the rest of the nation’s Catholic bishops in a courtesy call on the Kenyan president and prime minister. Soon after Friday’s discussions with Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the papal nuncio in Kenya sent a message to Bishop Kairo telling him he would like a meeting with him before he returned to Nakuru.
“We were only two of us at the Nuncio’s house, and when he broke the news, it was such a shock as I have never experienced as a priest and more so as a bishop,” Bishop Kairo said.
“The Nuncio just told me that Pope Benedict XVI has transferred me to Nyeri. Then he waited for my response, and I could not immediately interpret the new development.”
Bishop Kairo accepted his new appointment.
The Nakuru area has been the site of many ethnic clashes, especially after the contested elections of December 2007. Bishop Kairo said the clashes have been among his most difficult challenges, calling the post-election violence one of the worst experiences in his career.
“These were the worst clashes I have witnessed as they were well organized and many people were killed and property worth millions of shillings destroyed, and thousands rendered homeless.”
Bishop Kairo said his own nephew was killed in the violence in the Molo area, stating to the Daily Nation, “It was one of those bad experiences in my life. I felt helpless as nobody could stop these senseless killings.”
In addition, one of his diocese’s priests, Father Michael Kamau, was killed by a gang of youths in the post-election violence. Bishop Kairo said it remains one of his saddest moments as bishop.
“His death and those of more than 1,200 Kenyans in the violence, left a lasting impact on my life,” the bishop said. He said a new constitution was needed to avert future violence and destruction.
Father Moses Muraya, Vicar-general of the Diocese of Nakuru, described his bishop as a “jovial, very spiritual and a man who loves reconciliation. During his time in Nakuru, he did not blow anything out of proportion.”
More than forty men were ordained in Nakuru under Bishop Kairo. During his tenure, he tried to start a radio station. He also began a self-reliance project, which he considered his most successful venture.
“Nobody loves a beggar and when I came, the first thing I wanted to accomplish was to eradicate the begging syndrome as we no longer receive grants from abroad,” Bishop Kairo said. Last year, the diocese raised about $100,000 for the project.
The archbishop-designate said that as he leaves Nakuru, it is his prayer and wish that the internal refugees will soon be resettled. He also urged the president and the prime minister to visit all the internal refugees to restore hope and preach reconciliation. Land reform, he said, was also a pressing issue.
He said he would have loved to continue serving the Diocese of Nakuru, stating, “I will surely miss this diocese as we have struggled together with the priests, and all Christians for more than 11 years. Some of them came to my house and we shared meals. I will sincerely miss their hospitality and warmth.”
Bishop Kairo said that he would “soldier on with my pastoral duties” when he becomes Archbishop of Nyeri. His installation as archbishop is scheduled for June 14.