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Archbishop Emeritus James Odongo of Tororo passes on aged 89


TORORO BEREAVED: Archbishop Emeritus James Odongo at a mass in 2017. PHOTOS BY LOUIS JADWONG

Burial – James Odongo Arch.Emeritus Tororo
✳ Dec 6 – Requiem Mass Lubaga Cathedral 3.30pm
✳ Dec 7 – Body St. Austin, Mbale 3pm
✳ Dec 8 – Requiem Mass St Austin 12.00pm
✳ Dec 8 – Body Cathedral Tororo 4pm
✳ Dec 9 – Mass of Christian burial Uganda Martyrs Cathedral Tororo 12pm

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Archbishop Emeritus of Tororo James Odongo, 89, has passed on today at Nsambya Hospital. Uganda Episcopal Conference Secretary-General Msgr John Baptist  Kauta has confirmed.

Rev. Fr Kevin Musisi, the Tororo Archdiocese Vicar General, says that although the cause of the death of the Emeritus Archbishop is not yet known, he has been struggling with hypertension and diabetes for the past few years.

He eulogized the deceased saying that besides being the longest-serving ordinary of Tororo who steered them for close to 44 years, he will be remembered as a dynamic, courageous, and dedicated person.

“Since then he has been living in retirement and doing a little bit of pastoral work where he has been able, until he became quiet weak and sick. He was very dynamic, a visionary leader and committed to his job, had a sense of humor, courageous, a visionary and dedicated leader…  an example of what most people should be,” Fr. Musisi told URN in an interview.

James Odongo was the fourth African Bishop in Uganda and the first African Bishop of Tororo Diocese. He was also the first African chair of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), a position he held twice.

Odongo and his twin brother, the late Fr Alfred Opio, were born on March 27, 1931 in Molo village, 19km along the Tororo-Mbale road in then Bukedi district. His farther Gabriel Omunyin was a catechist of Nagongera Parish, while mother Rosalina Nyachwo was a farm worker.

In 2015 he celebrated his 84th anniversary of his birth and the 59th anniversary of his momentous priestly ministry.

He was ordained priest in Rome in 1956 and retired as Archbishop in 2007, having served as a priest for 51 years and, as a Bishop for 43 years, 39 of which he was Bishop of Tororo.

2017: Archbishop Odongo (middle) with King of the Jopadhola Kwar Adhola Moses Owor, greet Prof Charles Olweny, Chancellor of Mbarara University (right)

History of Centenary Bank

As chairperson of the social services committee of the Episcopal Conference of Uganda, a pivotal organ in the creation of Centenary Bank, Archbishop led a delegation to meet then President Milton Obote in 1983.

Obote remarked to him personally; “I know Catholics, when you want to start something, you cannot fail. Please go ahead and have the bank.” The rest is history.

According to a Biography of James Odongo, compiled by Msgr. John Baptist Kauta, Secretary of the Uganda Episcopal Conference titled “Shepherd of a multi-Cultural Mosaic’, the Bank was conceived to be a ‘monumento’ for the Catholics to celebrate 100 years of the religion in Uganda. It was primarily aimed at serving the rural communities, although it spread to urban areas.

James Odongo had great political insight, as he started his service under the British government, then that of the Democratic Party, Uganda’s People’s Congress, Idi Amin, Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Binaisa, Paulo Muwanga’s Military Commission, Obote II, Tito Okello until Yoweri Museveni.


Who is Odongo?

Archbishop Emeritus James Odongo served as the First Metropolitan Archbishop of Tororo       –  after Tororo diocese received the status of an Archdiocese.

Odongo was ordained to the Priesthood in Rome on 22nd day of December, 1956. After serving as priest for a while, Fr. Odongo was elected to serve as Titular Bishop of Baana and Auxiliary Bishop of Tororo on November 25, 1964. The following year, he was consecrated Bishop on February 16, 1965. After three years, he was appointed on August 16, 1968 to serve as the first Native Bishop to his people.

In 1999, when Tororo diocese was raised to the status of an Archdiocese – thus serving as the mother diocese in the Eastern Ecclesiastical Province, he became the First Metropolitan Archbishop.

Archbishop James Odongo’s contribution and service to the growing Church in Tororo and Uganda in general marked him to be a uniquely wise and memorable cleric – who even got the wonderful privilege of participating in the last sessions of Vatican II Ecumenical Council.

Archbishop Odongo faithfully served the Eastern Ecclesiastical Province and in particular the diocese of Tororo until the 27th  day of June 2007 when Pope Benedict XVI accepted his retirement request.

A brief history of the twin Archdioceses of Tororo and Kampala

The Archdiocese of Tororo metamorphosed from the Upper Nile Vicariate instituted on July 13, 1894 by the Holy See and entrusted to the Mill Hill Missionaries.

Arriving in Tororo at the onset of the 20th Century, the Mill Hill Missionaries embarked on the establishment of religious, educational and health institutions in the then Vicariate of the Upper Nile, a territory stretching from Kampala, Uganda to Nakuru in Kenya.

The Congregation on the Mill Hill Fathers was headquartered at Freshfield, England and Nsambya became the seat of the Bishop of the Vicariate.

The following Bishops headed the Vicariate: Henry Hanlon 1894-1911, Bishop John Biermans 1912-1924 and Bishop John Campling 1925-1937

In 1948, Rome divided the Vicariate of the Upper Nile into Kampala and Tororo.

Bishop John Reesinck 1938-1950 became the first Vicar Apostolic of Tororo, thus relinquishing his title as Bishop of the Vicariate of the Upper Nile,.

In the same year, Reesinck relocated his residence from Nsambya to Tororo, the Bishop’s See.

He retired in 1951 and Bishop John Greif 1951-1968 was installed as the Bishop of the Tororo Vicariate.

Therefore, when the Diocese of Tororo was created on March 25, 1953 Bishop Greif, the second Bishop of Tororo Vicariate, became the first Bishop of Tororo Diocese.

He dies on August 17, 1968 at the age of 70, after serving the people of Tororo for 46 years.

Upon the death of Bishop Greif, Bishop James Odongo became the second Bishop of the Diocese of Tororo, on August 19, 1968.

In 1999, he was appointed the first Metropolitan Archbishop of Tororo, overseeing the dioceses of Jinja, Kotido, Moroto and Soroti.

📌 ARCHBISHOP JAMES ODONGO: Education without God produces clever devils.
📌 ARCHBISHOP JAMES ODONGO: It has been a long and weary road; strength and courage sometimes failed, but there was no giving up. I drew from the following reflection: I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something; What I can do, I ought to do; and what I ought to do, I will do. ****************  At the 50th anniversary of this priesthood in 2006
📌 ARCHBISHOP JAMES ODONGO: Whenever I am interviewed, meeting people or in conversations, one of the common questions often asked is: “As an elder what legacy do you leave for the people of Tororo Archdiocese?”
In response, my memory often flashes back to one of my favorite sayings from H.G Wells: “The test of greatness is: What did the person leave to grow? By this test Jesus stands first.”
📌 ARCHBISHOP JAMES ODONGO: Legacy refers to a situation that exists because of things that happened earlier. It is not easy to sum up the many past events of one’s life and anticipate a repeat. That would tantamount to assuming the role of a prophet who is able to tell the past and forecast the future.
If legacy includes the past, then, I can happily provide some hints on my life and contribution to the development of the Church in Tororo Archdiocese. Whatever I did I was inspired by the words of St. Augustine: “Together with you, I am Christian; but for you I am a Bishop.”

SOURCE: The Biography of Archbishop JAMES ODONGO – Shepherd of a Multi-Cultural Mosaic compiled by Msgr.  John Baptist Kauta in 2015



  1. May the soul of papa rest in eternal peace. You have fought a good fight may you be found worthy to meet your creater whom you longed and served diligently in your priesthood papa. We are because you shepherd us, so may be be merciful in judging you.

  2. Is a great loss for us as Church leaders may his souls rest in eternal life

  3. Sad news for people of Tororo archdiocese and Uganda at large may his soul rest in peace.

  4. Fr Charles Makoboza

    It is a big loss of an elder. we are saddened at his departure at the same time consoled that he has returned to his Creator to be rewarded for the wonderful work he has done for the church. Archbishop James Odongo rest in peace

  5. RIP your Grace. You inspired us and as a good shepherd, you cared for our spiritual growth.


    Thank you for being a good Shepherd.Eternal rest grant to him Lord and let perpetual light shine up on him ,may he rest in eternal peace. Amen.

  7. Priscillah kimanimpaye

    RIp your grace.we pray for you to rest in peace

  8. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

  9. Bernard Osenda w'Osenda

    Oh this day brings one of the darkest moments of my life for having lost a dear friend and spiritual shepherd of mine His grace Arch Bishop James odongo.
    In him I found a true, principled and real friend and pastor and shepherd. We shall miss his wisdom, guidance and true stewardship.
    May your soul rest in eternal peace
    Bernard Osenda

  10. So sad indeed.
    Papa rest in peace.

  11. Your Grace, you have been a teacher, a parent, a guide and a True friend to everyone. We have learnt alot from you, your smartness and selflessness. May the good Lord whose love endures forever grant you eternal rest.

  12. Oh God of mercy! Look with mercy upon your loving servant whom you have called from this world to you may he who have moved with you from the begining to th end for th love of your name find comfort in your Holy place. Rest in eternal Peace the Holy one of God.

  13. May the Lord God, Father Almighty handle your soul with all the attention it deserves.

  14. May God judge him accordingly he did the work of God in smart way

  15. We wish u a comfortable rest bishop. Ur legacy teaches beyond boundaries

  16. Kiplimo Timothy bayyi

    Very unfortunate about the death of archbishop James odongo. May daddy always shares with me about your priesthood back I’m the days of 1980s & 90s. Its really a trying moment to the Catholic faithfuls more so those from THE ARCHDIOCESE OF TORORO. To thee we come from and to thee we shall return. May the lord welcome you into his heavily kingdom. May the lord forgive you sins. May the perpetual light shine upon you till we meet again

  17. Blessed are those who die in Christ. You have fought a good fight and ur race is done. Indeed good seeds we shall always remember. We shall miss u always papa James for the fruitful works of faith u have left in the world especialy the family of Tororo Arch diocese May the Almighty God grant u a peaceful rest.

  18. Very sad to learn of Archbishop Odongo’s passing. You were a great leader and shepherd many souls.
    You will be greatly missed but it is comforting to know that you have gone to be with the Lord.
    May you rest in eternal peace.

  19. Greatly missed by the sheep left behind.

    RIP our good shepherd.

  20. May His Soul Rest in peace

  21. May the soul of the Arch Bishop rest in the Eternal Bliss of Christ. Arch Bishop James Odongo was a true shepherd and prince of the Church. May the Lord Jesus receive him and May he be embraced by the warmth of Mary and the joy of the Holy Spirit, Amen!

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