Speakers at a funeral Mass held in the capital proclaimed the Rev. John Kaiser a martyr and a beacon for the oppressed and suffering. Kaiser, a native of Minnesota, had worked in Kenya for 36 years.
``I have never seen anything like this before. It's a dreadful tragedy but John's martyrdom will far outweigh his murder,'' said Carolita Mahoney, Kaiser's sister, who arrived in Kenya from Minnesota on Monday.
``Everything that was said today by the speakers expressed everything I knew and heard about John. The love John had for Kenyans was obviously matched by the Kenyans' love of him,'' she told The Associated Press after the service, her voice breaking with emotion.
Kaiser, 67, was a vocal critic of Kenya's human rights record. His body was found Aug. 24 along a highway near Naivasha, 50 miles northwest of Nairobi. He had been shot in the back of the head.
Kenyan human rights activists immediately called his death a political assassination.
Local media reports said documents found on his body linked two unidentified Kenyan cabinet ministers to violent tribal clashes. Kaiser intended to hand the documents over to a government commission looking into the clashes, which took place in the Rift Valley Province between 1992 and 1997, the reports said.
Four FBI agents are working with Kenyan police to investigate the case.
Before and after the ceremony, which lasted almost three hours, members of the Kenya Human Rights Network and students demonstrated outside the Holy Family Basilica Cathedral chanting and singing freedom songs. Many of the demonstrators carried banners saying, ``Killers of Father Kaiser are assassins of truth and liberty.''
In the packed cathedral, some 2,000 people were seated and another 1,000 were crammed into the aisles. Letters of condolence were read out from Pope John Paul II and the U.S. ambassador, Johnnie Carson.
Carson, who was unable to attend the service, promised in his letter that the U.S. government and embassy would do everything they could to ``ensure the individual or individuals who perpetrated this terrible crime would be punished and prosecuted according to the law.''
Archbishop Giovanni Tonucci, the top Catholic representative in Kenya, said Kaiser was the third missionary to be killed in the East African nation in the last four years.
``They have many things in common. They made themselves Kenyans to win the Kenyans, they had made themselves weak to win the weak...Their lives had been offered in sacrifice,'' Tonucci said. ``In recent days he probably felt that he was in danger, he understood his violent death was approaching. He could have gone, but he chose to remain in his place to fulfill his mission and to complete the gift of himself.''
Kaiser's body, dressed in robes and with a crucifix made of Maasai beads hung around his neck, lay in a glass-topped coffin throughout the service.
Tonucci, like many of the other speakers who spoke in Swahili and English, offered forgiveness to Kaiser's killers. He said the slain priest would have done the same.
But there were also warnings that Kaiser's fight for justice would not end.
``Whoever was sent to kill Father Kaiser may feel it is all over...I want to assure you, you could not be further from the truth because the fire lit by the Catholic priest cannot be put out. The struggle now must continue,'' said Bishop John Njue, chairman of the Episcopal Conference of Kenya.