Joseph Kariuki, the Catholic priest who died under controversial circumstances at a guest house in Murang’a, was buried on Thursday in Nairobi.
Kariuki, 43, was buried St Mary’s Msongari grounds during an emotional farewell ceremony attended by fellow priests and family members.
Two requiem masses were held in honour of the fallen priest. The first mass was held at St Peter’s Parish where Kariuki served until his death, and a second mass was held at his rural home in Mang'u, Kiambu County.
During these events, speakers heaped praise on Fr Kariuki describing him as a jovial and dedicated church leader.
Kariuki, popularly known as Father Karis, was pronounced dead at a hospital in Kenol, Murang’a where he was taken after he developed medical complications in the hotel room.
Police said before he died, Kariuki was in the company of a 32-year-old woman with whom he had spent the night at the hotel.
“Then this morning, around 0800hrs the priest’s (sic) girlfriend notified the hotel management that the boyfriend was being (sic) dizzy and getting unconscious so that they could rush him to the hospital,” the police said.
The death of Kariuki in the controversial circumstances resulted in an online furore. It did not take long before his name was one of the trending issues on social media.
While some of those who commented on the issue were critical and harsh, there those who chose to mourn the priest and even defend his name.
Away from the social media posts, Fr Kariuki cut the real image of a father figure back at his rural home. Here, you will be risking life and limb if you attempt to mention the priest's name in a bad light.
Fellow villagers have chosen to see only the best side of Kariuki despite the negative press that followed his death.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has accused the media of not being professional in the reporting on Kariuki’s death.
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And during the mourning period, it was clear that journalists were not welcome to Mang’u, the priest’s home town, as was evident when The Standard visited Kariukis’s rural home in Mang’u and Ruai where he served.
In these two places, the mention of Kariuki’s name in a bad light is likely to attract the wrath of villagers and some section of the church congregation.
At Mang’u, Kariuki was a respected religious leader with those who knew him describing him as friendly. He was a father figure in his village where he was a patron of some key projects at his rural home.
Villagers who spoke to the Standard said Kariuki was the patron of a welfare group that takes care of orphaned children, offering them education.
“He was simply our father. He raised funds to take make sure children from poor backgrounds get education “said Mary Muthoni, a resident of Mang’u.
Villagers said Kariuki attended almost every social event in his home town despite his tight priestly schedule. From burials to weddings, residents of Mang’u could always count on Father Kariuki to be there.
“He has officiated many weddings in this place. He has also taken part in ceremonies to bury fellow villagers,” said a church leader at the Mang’u Catholic Church.
Residents said Kariuki’s entry into the priesthood was a true calling. Kariuki started off as an altar boy at the Mang’u Catholic Church and eventually was ordained as a priest.
At his church in Ruai, congregants also praised Kariuku for his dedication at work.
Mercy Busiale, a resident of Ruai and a member of the church where Kariuki was the priest, heaped praise on the deceased.
In a social media post on a welfare group in Ruai, Busiale said: “He has fed the needy, he has preyed with the sick. He did what needed to be done. May you find forgiveness before the almighty, rest well Fr Karis.“