The investigation into the possible beatification of the widely loved former Archbishop of Nairobi, Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga, has begun with the appointment of the postulator of his cause.
Cardinal John Njue, the present Archbishop of Nairobi, has appointed Fr. Anthony Bellagamba as postulator. A Consolata Missionary, Fr. Bellagamba is a former professor of pastoral theology at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). His appointment coincided with the sixth anniversary of Cardinal Otunga’s death, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) reports.
Fr. Bellagamba was born in central Italy and first worked in Kenya from 1958 to 1963. He came to know Cardinal Otunga from 1984 to 1994 while teaching at CUEA, where the cardinal was chancellor.
The priest, a former Vice General Superior of the Consolata Missionaries in Rome, now works at Allamno House, the Consolata seminary in Nairobi.
He described Cardinal Otunga as a man who possessed “a great sense of the Divine” and a great sense of the supernatural.
“His prayer life was exceptional. His gentleness, kindness, was very, very attractive. He would take time to talk to you,” Fr. Bellagamba said, according to CISA. “He was so simple - not simplistic, because he was shrewd - but he was simple in the sense that he was not double-faced. What he believed, what he thought, he said.”
As postulator, Fr. Bellagamba will coordinate the beatification investigation and will lead a commission of church experts who collect all information from written and oral testimonies about the candidate’s life. If the archbishop of Nairobi thinks the results are suitable, they will be presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome.
“The purpose is to collect information, any type of information, that would prove whether he practiced the evangelical virtues in a heroic way or not,” he explained.
“Suppose someone comes and says his experience of the Cardinal was very negative, say he was a selfish person,” the priest said. “Then we have to go into it and be able to show that either the person is biased or the person has some ill feelings against the cardinal for whatever reason (he didn’t accept his son or daughter in one of the Catholic schools, etc). If we are able to demonstrate that the deposition is biased, the process continues; if not, you have to do more research and really resolve that issue before you continue.”
If the postulator’s investigation results are sent to Rome, they will again be scrutinized to see if negative depositions have been properly resolved. Investigators at Rome will also have to ascertain that someone has experienced a miracle through the intercession of the candidate.
Fr. Bellagamba told CISA he could not say how long the entire process might take, but he reported that the diocesan level investigation takes “several years.”