Roman Catholic bishops meeting with President Uhuru Kenyatta in Nairobi on Wednesday praised his recent decision to commute the sentences of death-row inmates, as well as the release of 7,000 prisoners incarcerated for minor crimes.
John Cardinal Njue, the Archbishop of Nairobi, and Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo, chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the decisions reflected genuine concern for the lives of Kenyans, and encouraged Kenyatta to continue with reforms to the economy, education and society.
Kenyatta reciprocated with his gratitude for the Church’s role in providing education, water, and health services to Kenyans, the government said in a press release. He also noted their contributions on “pertinent issues” affecting the country.
Those issues are often controversial in Kenya, where about one-third of the population is Roman Catholic on a continent that has seen the number of Catholics reach 200 million in recent decades.
Since 1980, that growth is at 238 percent, according to a 2015 study by the CARA center at Georgetown University in the United States. When Pope Francis visited Kenya last year, his trip took him to nations among those seeing the highest global growth in parishes, priesthood and population.
Growing as well is a visible and vocal Roman Catholic influence on social issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Last week, the confirmation of Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mbete Mwilu to Kenya’s Supreme Court was prefaced by parliamentary debate over her stance on same-sex marriage, which was challenged by conservatives though she is also Catholic.
Kenyatta’s response to her appointment was consistent with his approach to working with church officials, too, despite differences on social issues and respective roles.
“I just want to reiterate, once again, that at the end of the day we serve the same people,” the President told the Daily Nation on Friday. “Therefore, we need to complement each other in discharging our mandates to the people. We are not in competition.”
Image: President Uruhu Kenyatta