Malindi, Kenya: When Death Comes Unannounced
Catholic church, Kisumu Ndogo, Malindi

Malindi, Kenya: When Death Comes Unannounced

Albert Buijs mhm

In a letter to familty and friends Fr Albert Buijs mhm wites about the sudden death and funeral of Bishop Barbara in Malindi.

At the beginning of this year, my fellow residents went to the West of Kenya for the annual Mill Hill Assembly. It was difficult for them to find transport because the buses were booked full with school children and vacationers going back to their home regions in the interior. At night no buses are allowed to drive anymore. The number of road accidents has increased exponentially: in the last year there were almost 3000 deaths and also the many injured.

I was alone at home with a visiting Jesuit who is exploring Muyeye, an outstation, to start a new parish there in June. On 5 January I am called by a priest who lives with the Bishop early in the morning. He told me that he was worried about the bishop who did not show up for breakfast. Please, come quickly, he begged. We forced the door to the bedroom and yes, he had died in the course of the night. A doctor was called and the police were alerted – a lot of phone calls everywehre. In the afternoon we transported the body to the mortuary.

We have to take into account the heat here. The bishop of Mombasa came in the evening to discuss how to organise everything. Various committees were set up to make sure everything was taken care of: the Cathedral is too small and so we have find another place, the liturgy for the Holy Mass, invitations to the bishops, seeking financial help, overnight stays for those who come from far, and so on.

We learned that the bishop had said once he would like to be buried in the family tomb in his native Malta. Another headache. Meetings with the commitees and finally the funeral on 18 January on the field of a primary school. We managed t set up 30 large tents with a seating capacity of some 2000 chairs. Cardinal Njue and 15 Bishops had come over. In addition there were almost 100 priests and over a hundred sisters. The 2000 chairs were not enough either.

The Eucharist went well. Afterwards the body was taken back to the morgue because the funeral company from Nairobi could not get a plane. After the service there was food for everyone. On 20 January the corpse was taken to Nairobi and flown to Malta from there. A few people from Malindi and 2 priests also went to the funeral in Malta where he was buried on January 27th.

What a relief it was when all had passed! We have a team of consultors in place and I am now the administrator of the diocese. I still have to find out what I can or should not do. It’s all beautifully spelt out  in the Code of Canon Law – I have some homework to do! Sp I am no longer an Episcopal Vicar, but rather the administrator.

Albert Buijs mhm

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