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College of Cardinals

Biographical notes

[Updated: 06.09.2003]


Notice: the biographical notes are only a working instrument for the press, for the exclusive use of accredited journalists.


OTUNGA Card. Maurice Michael




Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga, Archbishop emeritus of Nairobi and Military Ordinary emeritus for Kenya, was born in January 1923 in Chebukwa, diocese of Kakamega (Kenya). Son of a tribal chief Bukusu, he was baptized in 1935 at the age of 12 and became the first native Cardinal.

He was ordained a priest on 3 October 1950. Elected titular bishop of Tacape 17 November 1956 and was consecrated on 25 February 1957. He was transferred to Kisii on 21 May 1960 and on 15 November 1969 was nominated titular Archbishop of Bomarzo and Coadjutor of Nairobi. He became Archbishop of Nairobi on 24 October 1971.

After having finished his studies at Mangu High School, he entered the seminary of Kakamega where he began his philosophy and theology training which he finished at the Gaba national seminary of Kampala, Uganda. He transferred to Rome and was a student at the Pontifical Urban University, where he was ordained a priest in October 1950 and obtained a doctorate in theology. Upon returning in Kenya he was a theology professor for three years at the major diocesan seminary of Kisumu, while he also served as vice-chancellor of the diocesan curia. On 17 November 1956 Pius XII nominated him Auxiliary to the Bishop of Kisumu. Four years later John XXIII transferred him to the new diocese of Kisii, where for nine years he dedicated his pastoral ministry. On 15 November 1969 Paul VI nominated him coadjutor of the Archbishop of Nairobi and then in 1971, Archbishop of Nairobi.

He was president of the Bishop's Conference of Kenya, vice president of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), member of the permanent committee of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), military vicar for Kenya from 1964 and then military ordinary from January 1981.

He also participated in the Second Vatican Council and took part in various assemblies of the Synod of Bishops and was member of the Council of the General Secretariat of the Synod.

Archbishop emeritus of Kenya, 21 April 1997.

Military Ordinary emeritus for Kenya, 29 August 1997.

Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Paul VI in the consistory of 5 March 1973 of the Title of S. Gregorio Barbarigio alle Tre Fontane (St. Gregory Barbarigo alle Tre Fontane).

Cardinal Maurice Michael Otunga died on 6 September 2003.


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