Profiles

Njue: Clergyman who blew hot and cold

John Cardinal Njue

John Cardinal Njue. FILE PHOTO | NMG

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Summary

  • To some, the clergyman was a strong defender of good governance and social morality as evidenced in June 2013 when he publicly criticised then US President Barack Obama for when advocating for gay rights while on an official visit to Senegal.
  • In a much publicised broadside against the Head of State, Cardinal Njeu said: “Let him forget, forget and forget" adding that he " does not "think God was making a mistake when he created Adam and Eve".
  • The Archbishop was also vocal against bad governance during the late President Daniel Moi’s reign—earning his adoration among human rights advocates as well as followers of the Catholic church.

When news broke this week that John Cardinal Njue had resigned as head of the Archdiocese of Nairobi, the reactions by Kenyans painted an image of a man with a mixed legacy.

To some, the clergyman was a strong defender of good governance and social morality as evidenced in June 2013 when he publicly criticised then US President Barack Obama for when advocating for gay rights while on an official visit to Senegal.

In a much publicised broadside against the Head of State, Cardinal Njeu said: “Let him forget, forget and forget" adding that he " does not "think God was making a mistake when he created Adam and Eve".

The Archbishop was also vocal against bad governance during the late President Daniel Moi’s reign—earning his adoration among human rights advocates as well as followers of the Catholic church.

He at one time told off the late Moi to his face that the Catholic church was unhappy with the government’s attempted takeover of church-sponsored schools.

Some critics however said that Njue dropped the ball especially after Mwai Kibaki became President, opting to stay passive or silent even in the face of serious issues such electrical injustices—a matter that reinforced concerns that the Catholic church be viewed as “pro-establishment”.

Cardinal Njue also came under criticism for staying silent during the 2013 and 2017 controversial Presidential elections which saw the country almost sliding into violence as was witnessed after Mr Kibaki’s re-election in 2007.

Njue was too known to wade in controversies. For example, in March 2014, Njue hit the news headlines when he cautioned against participation in a free government program to vaccinate women of reproductive age against tetanus terming the exercise “fishy”. He led Kenyan bishops in a campaign against the WHO-sponsored vaccination programme, claiming that the vaccine was designed to lower fertility.

The clergyman was yet again in the new in June 2017 when criticized women who impeded marriage through exorbitant bride price demands.

Njue spiritual journey began at tender age as a pupil at Kyaweru Nguviu Intermediate School where he was mentored by his teacher, Nazario Mvungu, a well renowned catechist. But it was at the minor seminary in Nkubu where his priesthood was nurtured after he joined the institution in 1961.

He was later ordained as a priest on January 6, 1973 by Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica, before returning to Kenya the following year. He began his priesthood mission in Kariakomu Parish in Meru Diocese untill July 1975. In the same Year, he was appointed Professor of Philosophy and Dean of Students at St. Augustine Senior Seminary, Mabanga in Bungoma and thereafter became a Rector for four Years between 1978 and -1982.

Njue then proceeded to the US in June 1982 for a six month course before returning to Kenya and taking up an appointment Father-in-charge of Chuka Parish—making him the first African Priest to be assigned in that parish after the Consolata Missionaries left. He served there for two and a half years. In January 1985, Fr. Njue, was appointed Rector of St. Joseph’s Meru Major Philosophicum Seminary in Nairobi.

On June 9, 1986, he was appointed as the first Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Embu by His Holiness Pope John Paul II. He received his Episcopal consecration on September 20 from Jozef Cardinal Tomko and the co-consecrators being Bishops Silas Silvius Njiru, and Raphael Ndingi Mwana’a Nzeki.

He served as the Chairman of the Seminary Episcopal Commission for Major Seminaries in Kenya (1987-1991), chairman of the Kenyan Episcopal Conference from 1997 to 2003, Chairman Kenya Episcopal Conference Justice and Peace Commission and Chairman Development and Social Services Department Kenya Catholic Secretariat (KCS).

He was appointed Co-adjutor Archbishop of Nyeri on March 9, 2002. After the death of the late Rt. Rev. Luigi Locati in the year 2000, He was appointed the Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate of Isiolo up to the Year 2006.

On October 6, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Njue as Archbishop of Nairobi, and later in a Consistory, on November 24,2007, elevated him as a new Cardinal, Member of the Sacred College of Cardinals.