A brown casket bearing the body of Archbishop Ndingi Mwana a’Nzeki was placed in a crypt at the basement of Nairobi's Holy Family Basilica yesterday.
This marked the final send-off of the cleric who never shied off from speaking his mind, especially in defence of the poor against the government of the day.
Ndingi was laid to rest inside the Basilica - where he served for 10 years until his retirement in 2007 - in a tomb above that of Archbishop John Njenga.
For a man who first made history by becoming the youngest Catholic bishop in Kenya at 37 in the 1960s before bestriding the church and Kenya's history like a colossus for 38 years, his burial was rather low key.
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Coronavirus may have just ruined a great man's burial.
The church was virtually empty with only about 100 people – including members of the clergy – attending the service and sitting far from each other to ensure social distance recommended to avoid contracting Covid-19.
Everyone, including John Cardinal Njue who presided over the funeral ceremony, wore masks.
Among those who attended the funeral ceremony included Rev Timothy Njoya, Central Bank of Kenya Governor Patrick Njoroge, Chief Justice David Maraga and his deputy, Philomena Mwilu.
Others were Defence CS Monica Juma, Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa, Bungoma Senator Moses Wetang'ula, Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa and Wiper Party leader Kalonzo Musyoka.
President Uhuru Kenyatta sent a representative, Kennedy Kihara, from his office.
In his condolence message, Uhuru called on Kenyans to emulate Ndingi.
“Indeed, the life of Archbishop Ndingi is a demonstration that even in the world of difficulties and challenges, there are people who are good and rise to serve God and his creation,” he said.
The president promised to set aside a day to celebrate Ndingi's life after the raging Covid-19 is over.
Ndingi's eulogy was red by the Auxilliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Nairobi, David Kamau, who described Ndingi as kind, but sometimes a stubborn firebrand who was also deeply spiritual.
“Archbishop Ndingi touched and changed many lives in this country and beyond. Here lies a patriot who loved God, church and country. His motivation was a triumph of good over evil,” he said.
According to the bishop, Ndingi and his colleagues established a hostel at Makadara to host homeless youth in Nairobi in the 1960s.
Ndingi's stubborn streak did not begin when he became bishop. Kamau recalled how as the church's education secretary, Ndingi applied to have Form Five and Six streams at Mangu High School and Loreto Convent, Limuru.
When this was not forthcoming, Ndingi stubbornly refused to leave the Ministry of Education headquarters.
“At the end of the day, Monsignor Ndingi and Sister Colombia left the building with a letter granting the schools certificates for the higher classes,” recounted Bishop Kamau.
As bishop and later archbishop, Ndingi was not afraid of making his mind known on issues of truth and justice. For example, when the infamous ethnic clashes erupted in Nakuru, Ndingi gave many in the government sleepless nights.
“We remember him as a firebrand who confronted State agents in the Rift Valley during the ethnic clashes and defended the oppressed,” said Kamau.
For his fiery defence of truth and justice, Ndingi's Alma Mata, St John Fisher College in New York, awarded him a doctorate of law in 1996.
In 2019, the government of Kenya awarded him the Elder of the Order of the Burning Spear (EBS).