NAIROBI, June 30 – Pope Benedict XVI has appointed Bishop Anthony Muheria of the Embu Diocese as bishop of the neighbouring Diocese of Kitui.
The Kitui Diocese has been vacant for three years since the elevation of Bishop Boniface Lele to the rank of Archbishop and his transfer to the Archdiocese of Mombasa in 2005.
Muheria, 45, the only Opus Dei bishop in Kenya, will remain apostolic administrator of Embu. With this appointment, Embu becomes the third vacant diocese in Kenya after Murang’a and Nakuru.
Sources familiar with the secretive process of selecting a bishop say Kitui’s long vacancy was due to difficulties in finding a suitable candidate. One of the conditions for appointing a bishop is acceptance by the priests and Christians of the diocese. In the case of Kitui, several names have been floated and dropped.
Bishop Muheria was born in Murang’a Diocese on May 27, 1963. He attended various primary schools in Murang’a, Kirinyaga and Kiambu districts before joining Mang’u High School for his secondary education, where he sat the "O" level exam in 1978. He was admitted to then Strathmore College (now a university) for his "A" levels.
Muheria joined the University of Nairobi to study Civil Engineering and graduated with an honours degree in 1984. He worked for four years in design and supervision of structural work upon graduation until 1989.
That year, Muheria entered the International Seminary of the Holy Cross, while attending his theological studies at the Pontifical Prelature of Opus Dei in Rome. On June 13, 1993, he was ordained a priest at the Basilica of the Saint Eugene in Rome. For the following two years, he was involved in formation within the Seminary of the Holy Cross.
Fr Muheria completed his doctoral studies in Sacramental Theology in June 1995, and returned to Kenya where he was mainly involved in the pastoral work within the Opus Dei Prelature. He carried out a wide apostolate of spiritual direction and formation to various groups of people, including preaching many retreats to laymen and diocesan priests.
On October 30, 2003, he was appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Embu to succeed Bishop John Njue, who had been moved to Nyeri. Muheria was consecrated bishop on January 10, 2004.
His new Diocese of Kitui is very arid and home to some of the poorest people in Kenya, a large percentage of residents living on food aid.
Holy Ghost Missionaries, or the Spiritans, were the first evangelisers of Kitui. They opened a primary school in Museve in 1939 and started missions at Mutune (1945), Muthale (1948) and Ikanga (1956).
The northern part of the diocese was evangelised by Consolata Missionaries from Meru, who opened a mission at Kimangao in 1954.
Kitui was made an apostolic prefecture in October 1956 and entrusted to the St Patrick Missionary Society. It became a diocese on November 16, 1963, with William Dunne as the first bishop. Lele succeeded Dunne on February 2, 1996.