People are turning up in large numbers to pay homage to the relic of Saint Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesian Congregation.
It is part of a journey that started on January 31, 2009, the 150th anniversary of the Salesian Congregation.
The relic has so far been to 42 countries and is expected to have toured 132 countries across five continents by August 16, 2015, to coincide with Don Bosco’s 200th birthday.
The Catholic faithful believe that devotion to saints provides hope and encourages individuals to ask the saints to intercede for them before God. To them, a relic is an object of religious veneration which can be anything from the bones of a saint to an object which touched a martyr.
“The relic of Don Bosco is being brought to the world so that Christians may honour him as a servant of God, as well as view him as a source of inspiration for those still living,” said Father Gianni Rolandi, the Provincial of the Salesians of Don Bosco in East Africa.
The relic was recomposed from the urn that contained his remains since 1929 when the body was exhumed for its beautification and canonisation. It is preserved at the Basilica of Mary Help of Christian at Turin, Italy.
The bones and tissues of the saint’s right hand were reconstituted and preserved within the replica of his body enclosed in a large urn. The sculpture face is made with Don Bosco’s own death mask — the mould made on his face, right after his death.
The urn is composed of a large glass box mounted atop a large wood and metal cart. Among the urn’s decorations are the words, Da mihi animas, caetera tolle which translates to, “Give me souls, take away the rest”, one of Don Bosco’s quotes that guided his ministry.
Images of young faces also surround the urn, as well as maps showing places where the Salesian family is present today.
The relic is transported in a private jet, has round-the-clock security and travels in a specially modified casket with a wax replica body lying in state. The casket is made of a steel base with a glass viewing window.
The full urn is transported by two specially designed trucks shipped beforehand from Italy to any host country.
The Italian chauffeurs have made a vow never to give up the wheel during the transport of the relic and never to let it out of their view.
Saint Don Bosco died on January 31, 1888, but millions still follow his teachings and way of life. The relic arrived in Nairobi on Thursday evening and was taken to Embu and Makuyu on Friday. It also toured Nzaikoni in Machakos and was flown to Kakuma.
The national celebrations were presided over by the Pope’s representative to Kenya Alain Paul Lebeaupin at the Don Bosco Catholic Church in Upper Hill.
Archbishop Lebeaupin praised Don Bosco as one saint who lives in the hearts and minds of millions of followers in the Catholic Church.
The Salesians of Don Bosco is a Roman Catholic religious order founded in an attempt, through works of charity, to care for the young and poor children of the industrial revolution.
In Kenya, the order runs technical schools, parishes and secondary schools.