Archbishop Philip Anyolo Saturday pledged to help unite the church moments after he was installed as the head of Kisumu archdiocese in a colourful ceremony attended by thousands of Catholic faithfuls and political leaders.
The ceremony ended the process of replacing retired Archbishop Zacchaeus Okoth.
Archbishop Anyolo repeated his message of unity, calling on the faithful to seek God’s hand in this era “when the church is threatened with outside interference”. He also called for a society where people support one another.
The former Homa Bay Diocese bishop was lauded for the role he has played in bringing peace and tranquillity in the country.
In the audience was Deputy President William Ruto, ODM leader Raila Odinga, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang’ula, Bungoma Governor Wycliffe Wangamati and Kisumu governor Prof Anyang’ Nyong’o. Prof Nyong’o was later rushed to hospital after feeling unwell.
Bishop Anyolo’s installation mass was conducted before a gathering of the faithful and top clerics, including Cardinal John Njue.
Mr Ruto expressed optimism that the taking over of Archbishop Anyolo will bring prosperity and development to the region.
"We are happy for the role retired Archbishop Okoth has played for the 40 years he served and we are confident that you will take the Archdiocese of Kisumu further," he said.
Mr Odinga, on the other hand, urged the church to continue fighting for truth and justice in the country.
"We have come from a horrible past when the residents of this region could not move freely due to the violence that was witnessed after the contested presidential election last year," he said.
Mr Odinga attributed his coming together with President Uhuru Kenyatta to the prayers, support and encouragement of the church.
“The March 9, 2018 handshake was a result of the encouragement of religious leaders who prevailed upon us to work together for the sake of the country,” he said to the congregants who assembled at Uzima Medical University Grounds.
The ODM leader also installed Archbishop Anyolo as a Luo elder since he will be working with the larger Luo community.
Mr Odinga’s father, Mzee Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, installed the retired Archbishop Okoth in 1990 as an elder, when he took over the leadership.
Mr Odinga called on retired Archbishop Okoth, who is still involved in the Building Bridges Initiative, to put all effort and ensure the country returns to the right path.
Cardinal Njue, who led other clergymen in marking the occasion, also expressed confidence that Archbishop Anyolo will build on the development initiatives that the church is involved in.
The ceremony was also attended by hundreds of congregants and students from Catholic-sponsored schools. The archbishop was appointed by Pope Francis on November 14, last year. He promised to steer the Catholic Church to greater heights and build on the legacy left by his predecessor.
In an interview with the Nation this week, Archbishop Anyolo said he was inspired to be a cleric after seeing Africans start joining priesthood during an era dominated by white clergymen. “My desire to be a priest grew more after being inspired by African priests who administered the word of God to us,” said Rev Anyolo.
He attended Catholic schools, which he said added to his enthusiasm to join the church and lead the congregation. Archbishop Anyolo, whose parents are Mr Paul Anyolo and Mrs Dina Anyolo, was born on May 18, 1956 in Tongaren in Bungoma.
He studied at Mother of Apostles Seminary in Eldoret. Before his promotion, the Man of God had been the Bishop of Homa Bay Diocese since 2003 after serving in Kericho from 1995.
His rallying call to Catholic believers is that, “They should expect more teachings on direction to Jesus Christ.”
“My calling is to help people see their lives in different directions through Jesus Christ. I will teach what Christ taught,” he said.
The church has, however, faced challenges on how to deal with modernisation and globalisation, which have shaken the way faithful and priests carry themselves as opposed to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
During the installation mass, Deputy President William Ruto gave Archbishop Philip Anyolo a new vehicle after his inauguration as the Archbishop of Kisumu.
The DP said the Mitsubishi Pajero will allow him move across the larger metropolitan archdiocese with ease.
“As a spiritual leader overseeing parts of northern Kenya from Turkana, Kisumu to Migori, we have decided to come together and give you a vehicle which will enable you visit people around your region,” Dr Ruto said.
The DP said the donation was made possible through ‘contributions’ from President Uhuru Kenyatta, leaders from the South Rift and a section western Kenya leaders.
“I would like to thank the President for accepting to contribute in this noble course and enabling us to raise the funds to purchase this vehicle,” he said before delivering the car to the clergy at Uzima Medical University grounds in Kisumu on Saturday.
He delivered the gift accompanied by Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa who serves as the chairman of Catholic MPs in the National Assembly.
Archbishop Anyolo also received a gift of Toyota V8 from Kisumu congregants.