It was an unusual Palm Sunday as many Catholic faithful kept off churches following a government ban on social gatherings.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) conducted mass on various stations presided over by its chairman, Archbishop Philip Anyolo of Kisumu. It was also used to pay a special tribute to departed Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana ‘a Nzeki, who was described as a fearless servant of God.
“Archbishop Ndingi dedicated his 60 years of service to mankind and God and today we honour him for his exemplary service,” said Archbishop Anyolo. He urged Kenyans to adhered to social distancing guidelines to beat the coronavirus pandemic.
At St Peter's Catholic Church in Elburgon, the ceremony was conducted by Fr James Muraya, Fr Michael Muriuki and a Sister who was assisting them. A heap of palms were placed at the main entrance with each of the priests holding a piece.
Fr Muriuki said they will spend the week praying for those who have been infected and called on Christians to pray for the country and for those who have lost their loved ones.
St Monica Catholic Church in Nakuru’s Section 58 remained deserted as there was no mass. Only a handful of worshippers arrived at different times after the church opened its doors for individuals who were willing to make personal prayers.
In Nyandarua and Laikipia counties, priests urged their flock to pray God’s intervention without ceasing. Nyahururu Bishop Joseph Mbatia urged Christians to continue praying while at home.
“Many Kenyans are suffering as a result of the disease. Our economy is on its knees. We should continue calling on God to intervene and deliver us from these sufferings,” said the clergy.
In Samburu County, churches in Maralal and Kisima remained closed. A priest in Maralal urged the faithful to observe social distancing.
"We urge faithful to pray from home because God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent," he said.
In Subukia, Nakuru County, Fr Peter Mose urged Christians to have faith saying “the one who was put to death to be eliminated forever became the vaccine and the cure for our salvation of both body and soul”.
In Kisumu County, Palm Sunday was greeted by eerie silence. A spot check by the Nation revealed that most churches allowed the faithful to walk in in an organised fashion only to pick the palm fronds.
St Joseph Milimani Catholic had the palms placed strategically at the grotto. Similar scenes were witnessed at St Teresa's Cathedral, St Francis Riwo, St Paul's Kanyakwar and a host of other churches.
At St Leonida Catholic Church in Nyawita, locked church doors with a huge palm leaves affixed on the wooden doors was the only reminder of the celebrations.
In Kakamega County, Christians did not show up in churches to mark the celebrations. A spot check in churches in the region showed Christians had opted to stay away from normal church services and remain at home. Kakamega Bishop Joseph Obanyi said Christians had been asked to stay at home and pray.
"We have asked our church members to obey the directive from the government to stay safe by avoiding gatherings which could contribute to the spread of the virus," said Bishop Obanyi at his residence in Mukumu.
He asked Christians to devote their time to prayers and seek God’s intervention to end the pandemic. It was the same case in Kisii County, where Palm Sunday was marked in low key events.
“They (faithful) walked into the church, picked their palm branches and were blessed," said Father Arnold Ototo. He said faithfuls as well as the church leadership observed the social distancing guidelines.
At St Charles Lwanga Kisii Cathedral, faithful picked the already blessed palm branches. At Kisii Parish, church doors were locked when the Nation visited. In Vihiga County, churches were deserted as Christians kept off.
At St Charles Lwanga Catholic church in Mbale, there were no activities when the Nation team visited at 10am. Fr Martin Chibole, the priest in charge, was said to be away. The other Catholic churches in the county had no activities, too.
Vihiga Woman Representative Beatrice Adagala, who was in the county distributing water tanks and hand sanitisers, asked Christians to obey government guidelines.
She said the guidelines were intended to reduce the spread of Covid-19 through reducing gatherings.
"This disease is real. It has killed people in Italy, USA and China. Let us stay at home. People say they will die of hunger if they stay home but the government will cater for food," she said.
Reporting by John Njoroge, Steve Njuguna, Geoffrey Ondieki, Joseph Openda, Francis Mureithi, Ondari Ogega, Benson Amadala, Ruth Mbula and Derick Luvega