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100-year-old altar finally leaves Nyeri for Pope Mass

The Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri has handed over an altar that will be used by Pope Francis to preside over Mass at the University of Nairobi on Thursday next week.

Nyeri Archbishop Peter Kairo handed over the 100-year-old altar to Fr Charles Kinyua and Fr Peter Kamomoe, who were sent to pick it up by the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB).

The altar, standing on a red carpet, wrapped in plastic paper and a white cloth, was carried in a lorry owned by former Head of Civil Service Francis Kimemia.

Mr Kimemia, who arrived shortly after the altar was loaded onto the waiting 10-tonne lorry, said the truck was a donation from Nyandarua County Catholics.

“The faithful in Nyandarua County decided to offer transportation services for the altar, and this is their contribution towards Pope Francis’ visit,” said Mr Kimemia, who was accompanied by his two daughters.

ESCORTED BY POLICE

The altar was escorted by plain clothes police officers drawn from the Administration Police officers, who rode in a separate Land Rover.

A special ceremony was held at Mathari Pastoral Centre, where the altar had been stored, with Fr Kinyua reading a letter sent to Archbishop Kairo, requesting him to release the altar.

The letter was written by Fr Daniel Kimutai Rono, who is the general-secretary of KCCB, and copied to the Right Reverend Phillip Anyolo, the chairman of the conference.

“I write to your Grace in regard to the visit by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to Kenya. As you are aware, the Liturgy committee identified the altar at Mathari Church to be transported to Nairobi for use during the Papal mass at the UoN grounds on November 25, 2015.

“I kindly request you to release the altar to the bearer of this letter in order to facilitate the Liturgy Team with the preparations at the UoN grounds,” reads the letter.

RELEASE ALTAR

Archbishop Kairo responded: “On behalf of the faithful from Nyeri Catholic Archdiocese, it is my honour and privilege to release the altar to KCCB for use by the Pope.

“We as Nyeri faithful feel privileged and excited to see that our Pope will use the same altar that was used during the beatification of the Blessed Sr Irene. As he comes, let us pray for peace of all Kenyans and the world in general.”

Fr Kamomoe, the priest in charge of the Holy Family Basilica, said he and Fr Kinyua were “delegated to collect the altar”.

It will undergo refurbishment before the Thursday Mass.

The altar was used during the beatification of Sr Irene Stefani at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology grounds by Papal Delegate Polycarp Cardinal Pengo of Dar-es-Salaam on May 23.

The altar was constructed in 1918 by Catholic brothers and locals who were trained on carpentry by the missionaries at Mathari.

SR IRENE PORTRAIT

Meanwhile, Archbishop Kairo and Fr Kamomoe said they were still waiting for a confirmation on whether a canvas with a portrait of Sr Irene would be hang at the Papal dais during the Mass.

“The committee working on the issue is yet to confirm whether they will collect the canvas ahead of the Mass,” said Archbishop Kairo.

The portrait was painted by an Italian artist from Anfo, a village in Italy where Sr Stefani was born. The portrait hangs inside Our Lady of Divine Providence in Gikondi, Mukurweini, where the nun lived, served and died.