Head of the Catholic Church in Kenya John Cardinal Njue is among the top priests in the world who will elect a new pontiff to succeed Pope Benedict XVI.
Yesterday, Fr Vincent Wambugu of the Kenya Catholic Secretariat, said Cardinal Njue left the country on Sunday night to join 116 other cardinals from around the world to elect the new head of the Catholic Church when the conclave is convened.
Njue, who will be entering the conclave for the first time, will represent East Africa together with his Tanzanian counterpart Cardinal Polycarp Pengo. The two are the only cardinals in the region.
Fr Wambugu, also the Secretary General at the Secretariat and the Secretary to the Kenya Episcopal conference, said Kenya was proud to have Cardinal Njue at the historic event.
âAll what the church and all of us can do is to wait for the will of God to be done and to avoid speculations and rumuors because they are not useful for this process,â he added.
He said this is a critical time in the churchâs history, where Christians and people of goodwill should offer their prayers to God for a new shepherd to be found.
âAll that is expected of Christians is to pray to God to give the universal church a shepherd and for the will of God to be done,â he said.
Wambugu said the church in Kenya was ready and willing to receive whoever will be elected.
âWhen the cardinals enter the conclave,Â they will be guided by the Holy Spirit in prayer and speculations and predictions do not play a part,â he said.
The only other Kenyan to enter the conclave to elect a Pope was the late Maurice Cardinal Otunga, now referred within the Catholic Church as the âServant of Godâ following a process to canonise him as a saint.
Otunga was one Africaâs long-serving cardinals and was named cardinal by Pope Paul VI in the consistory of March 5, 1973.
Twice, he was at the conclave in the Vaticanâs Sistine Chapel in Rome, during the elections of Pope John Paul I and Pope John Paul II.
Otunga, in an interview with the Ukweli Video Productions before his death, termed the experience at the Sistine Chapel like no other.
He said when the Pope died in 1978, all the cardinals aged 80 and below were summoned to the Vatican to elect a new Pope.
Unlike in the current scenario where the Pope has resigned, cardinals are summoned to elect a new Pope when the holder of the office dies.
In cases where the Pope has passed on, ten days are set aside for mourning. During this period, the cardinals at the Vatican are briefed on the situation of the church by members of Curiaâcardinals aged over 80 who are not eligible to vote.
Otunga said before the conclave, the Curia officers brief the cardinals on the status of the church worldwide.
When the cardinals enter the Sistine Chapel, the late Otunga said, the doors are locked and communication between them and the outside world cut off.âEach one of us was given a cubicle. That was the first time I saw the inside of the Vatican.
There was a bed, a basin, table, soap, towel and a little shower and a toilet and a common room, where we could meet to eat, and plenty of space to go round,â Otunga said.
He recalled that election day, there were no consultations.
âThe balloting started. It was between you and God. We used to pray a lot and one voted according to their conscience,â he added.
He said four other cardinals acted as returning officers and for the vote to be valid and the newly elected Pope to assume office, he had to garner two thirds of the votes plus one of the cardinals present. Otunga recalled this was how they elected Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice who went on to pick the name John Paul I.
Otunga was recalled a month later to elect Pope John Paul Iâs successor following his death.