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ANALYSIS: Why is Catholic Church losing followers?

(L-R) Fr. Jacinto Kibuuka, Fr. Vincent Kisenyi Byansi, Fr. Anthony Musaala, Fr. Deogratius Ssonko

Figures from the 2014 National Population and Housing Census show that, in the last 10 years, the percentage of Ugandan identifying as Catholics has declined from 41.6% in 2002 to 39.3% of the general population. 

In the 1991 census, however, the number identifying as Catholic was estimated to be between 44.6% and 49.6% of the total population. Taken together, the figures show that although Catholicism remains the biggest religion in Uganda, it is in decline.

The Anglican, Protestants, or Church of Uganda, which has been the second biggest religious group is also declining, although not as fast as Catholicism.

In the 1991 census, Protestants were estimated to be between28.7% and 39.2% of the total population. That figure was stable at 36.7% in 2002 and dropped to 32% in 2014.

On the other hand, the number of Muslims, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, and traditionalists has been increasing.

Muslims increased from between 6.6% and 10.5% in 1991 to 12.4% in 2002, and 13.7% in 2014. The Pentecostals increased from 4.7% in 2002 to 11.1% in 2014.

The Pentecostals have grown mainly by eating into the Catholic and Protestant base.

Pentecostal preacher Pastor Aloysius Bujingo of House of Prayer Ministries of Makerere Kikoni is a former Roman Catholic. When the figures were released, he spent over a week preaching to his followers about why “the traditional churches were finally dying”.

“These figures show we have done a lot of work and saved many people from the darkness of evil,” Bujingo told his followers.

Phiona Nakiwala, another former Catholic who is now a pastor with the Seeta branch of the Pentecostal Miracle Centre Church, says “people leave the Catholic Church because they fail to find God there”.

“Ever since I became saved in 1997 I have received a lot of glory from God which I had never got with the Catholic Church where I was baptised,” Nakiwala says.

As the Catholic church is losing followers to the evangelical Pentecostals, however, one of the leaders of the church – Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala Roman Catholic Archdiocese, which is the biggest, most wealthy and influential, is busy excommunicating evangelical-leaning priests who are called charismatic preachers in Catholicism. Observers say Archbishop Lwanga is making a big mistake. But could they be wrong?

In search of answers, one needs to visit Mamre Worship Centre in Janda village near Kampala city and about 2kms off the Namugongo Seeta Road on the border of Wakiso and Mukono districts. To reach it, you travel along a dusty road which branches about 100 metres before the Anglican Martyr’s Shrine in Namugongo, a Kampala city suburb. Tucked away in a swampy forested area just off the road is Mamre, a secluded place teeming with human activity. This is the church of Father Jacinto Kibuuka, formerly of the Roman Catholic until his excommunication turned him into the face of Charismatic opposition to Archbishop Lwanga and the trouble ailing the church.

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