The memorial Mass for Fr. Jerry Roche, an Irish priest slain by burglars in Kenya, was held on Thursday. The Mass was attended by five bishops, the entire fraternity of the Kiltegan Fathers, scores of priests and religious and thousands of other Christians.
The priest was stabbed to death last week at his home on the outskirts of Kericho town, about 120 miles west of Nairobi, Reuters reports. The burglars stole his laptop, his mobile phone and an unknown amount of money.
The 68-year-old priest had worked in Kenya for 41 years. His body was found after he failed to appear for an early morning Mass.
Bishop of Kitale Maurice Crowley was the celebrant at the funeral Mass. He called on all Christians to emulate Fr. Roche’s selflessness in giving his life for the people of Kericho.
He also called on the murderers to repent and return to the Lord, the Catholic Information Service for Africa (CISA) says.
Bishop of Kericho Emmanuel Okombo remembered Fr. Roche as a “pioneer missionary” and an exemplary priest who lived his life to the fullest.
“Fr. Roche will be remembered for his prayer life and hard work in all the parishes in worked in,” the bishop said, describing his death as a “big loss” for the entire Catholic Church.
Bishop Okombo also conveyed condolences from Pope Benedict XVI and the cardinal heading the Vatican’s Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith.
All the other bishops expressed condolences to Fr. Roche’s family, represented at the funeral by his nephew. The family has requested to have Fr. Roche’s body returned to Ireland, where he will be buried alongside his parents in Limerick.
Bishop of the Military Ordinariate Alfred Rotich moved the congregation to tears by appealing to the Kipsigis community to repent the murder and the abominations committed in their land. Speaking in Kipsigis, the bishop called on local leaders to rally the people back to the Lord.
“Human life is sacred, no one has a right to take away life,” the bishop added.
The priest was known for his hard work and good humor. His confreres eulogized him as a man who stood for the truth, love and justice.
Fr. Patrick Devine, speaking in a message on behalf of the Association of Religious Superiors of Kenya, said the priest has not died in vain and his spirit will continue living “among all those he touched by his work and love.”
“This is not a moment of fear but one of restoration, may the planners and murderers of Fr. Roche repent and return to way of love, justice and truth that he stood for,” he continued.
Reuters reports that Kenyan police have arrested three suspects in Fr. Roche’s murder.