Retired Catholic Archbishop Raphael Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki will be buried at a private ceremony next week on Tuesday, the church announced Wednesday.
Only about 100 people will be allowed at the ceremony, locking out politicians, clergy and faithful whom he had led for more than 60 years of priesthood.
According to the statement, a requiem mass will be held at the Holy Family Basilica from 10am and thereafter Bishop Ndingi will be buried in the crypt inside the Basilica in Nairobi, where he retired as the head of the Archdiocese.
“It will be a private funeral ceremony. No more than 100 persons will be allowed at the funeral,” the press statement read.
This is aimed at enforcing social distancing rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
“Those participating will include representatives of the Mwana a’Nzeki family from Mwala in Machakos County, Kenya Catholic Bishops Conference, Diocese of Machakos, Diocese of Nakuru and the Archdiocese of Nairobi,” the statement further said.
After his consecration as a bishop in 1969, Ndingi served in Machakos, Nakuru and Nairobi before he retired in 2007.
It is not clear whether President Uhuru Kenyatta or his deputy William Ruto will attend the ceremony, but the government will be represented.
The funeral will take no more than one hour and will be televised live by select media stations.
Ndingi was taken ill in the early hours of Tuesday at the Archdiocesan Clergy Home in Nairobi, where he was residing and rushed to Mater Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Sources told the Nation that Ndingi had been ailing for some time, suffering from age-related complications.
He is the only Catholic Bishop in Kenya to celebrate an episcopal golden jubilee after completing 50 years as a bishop.
Ndingi first made history in 1969 when Pope John Paul IV appointed him the Bishop of Machakos at the age of 38 years, becoming the youngest bishop then and first African priest to head a diocese in the country.
Villagers at his Kwa Nzeki home near Wamunyu market, which was named after him, celebrated their fallen son, saying he had accomplished his mission.
The development will no doubt come as a disappointment to many Kenyans who would have wished to witness the Archbishop Emeritus being granted a befitting burial, as much as the need to observe social distancing is critical.
Kenya Film Classification Board Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua eulogised Ndingi.
“There is never a right time to lose a loved one, but this is the wrong time for Archbishop Ndingi to leave us, rest in peace,” Dr Mutua, his relative and neighbour, said Wednesday.
The firebrand cleric served for 24 years as Bishop of Nakuru, rising to national prominence.
With his larger-than-life image and record as a relentless human rights crusader, Ndingi remained a thorn in the flesh of the Kanu regime in Nakuru until June 1996, when he was transferred to the Nairobi archdiocese as the Coadjutor Archbishop.
The three governors from Ukambani region — Alfred Mutua (Machakos), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Kivutha Kibwana (Makueni) — eulogised him as a true servant of God who answered his calling as minister of the gospel and shepherd of mankind.