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Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere takes reins of Kampala Diocese

Jan.25 was a day of song, prayer and merrymaking when Bishop Paul Ssemogerere took the reins of Kampala Archdiocese—one of the four provinces of the Roman Catholic Church in Uganda.

Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Ssemogerere’s televised installation was witnessed by hundreds of Christians and attended by senior officials including archbishops, bishops, priests, nuns, and special guests.

Representatives from the central government were led by Jessica Alupo, the Vice president and Anita Annet Among, the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. Charles Peter Mayiga, the Katikiro of Buganda, the Nnabagereka Sylvia Nagginda, and Prince Wassajja headlined the entourage from Buganda Kingdom.

As congratulatory messages flooded his new office from as far as the Vatican City, Archbishop Ssemogerere, showed he was aware of the enormity of the task ahead. He asked his congregants to pray for him.

Two days before his consecration, Ssemogerere told local broadcaster, NTV, that among the challenges he anticipated was that of being misunderstood. He also foresaw the challenge of so much expectation from people and the challenge of some people not liking what the church teaches.

“Not all would wish success for me or the Catholic Church; some dislike the church; some are Anti-Christ while others have no faith at all,” Bishop Ssemogerere said.

He said he also had been made aware of conmen in the diocese. “On human rights abuses, I will be guided by the social teachings of the church,” he said, adding that, “There is need for leaders to speak on behalf of the less privileged.”

“I am going to serve God’s people as mandated. I will try as much as possible to pray for the people. I will make sure that there is good governance that respects human rights.”

Kampala Archdiocese was formed in 1966 when a section of the diocese of Kampala and Lubaga merged and it now covers the capital city area and the surrounding districts.  Thanks to its location and history of the Catholic Church in Uganda, the diocese plays an influential role in the country’s spiritual, political and social development.

Its close association with Buganda Kingdom and it being the official seat where the Cardinal also gives it a unique and prominent status among the four archdioceses in the country.

Previous archbishops of Kampala have cultivated a reputation of being vocal clerics, often times criticising the government for its excesses and human rights abuses, lawless conduct of sections of the armed forces, failure to protect Ugandans as cases of murder increase and for its attack on Uganda’s fledgling democracy.

Speaking truth to power

Ssemogerere will most likely continue from where his immediate predecessor, Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, as well as Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala and Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga, left.

As far back as 1966, when Cardinal Nsubuga became Kampala Archbishop, he was confronted with and spoke against the 1966 Buganda crisis, the Idi Amin Dada autocratic rule, post-Amin uncertainty and the Luweero triangle war that brought the NRM government into power.

For Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, it was his explicit support for the return of multiparty democracy, the federal system of governance and human rights issues. But it was Dr. Lwanga who probably got under the skin of President Museveni.

In 2018, Lwanga accused government of recruiting priests to spy on religious leaders; especially those it thought were vocal. While giving his Easter sermon at the Lubaga cathedral in Kampala, Lwanga said he could not mince words about something he knew was the truth.

“A few days ago, I got a telephone call. It was a private number so I did not know who was calling and this person had an accent from western Uganda and this is what he told me, ‘there are many lies being told the president, that—they have recruited your priests, your sisters, your brothers, even catechists and seminarians—and we give them a lot of money,” Lwanga said in March, 2018, as per The Observer newspaper.

Lwanga told his congregation: “If God wants me to die that way, I will. But if I’m going to die because of wrong accusations, that is criminal.”  He asked government security agencies to stop character-assassinating people.

“Some of them have guns and come with them to church. They should stop or else we shall be forced to have everyone checked before coming here,” Lwanga said.

“Let government have the courage to call Ntagali (the then Archbishop for the Anglican Church), myself or Mubajje (the Mufti of Uganda) and tell us the information they have about ourselves but some of those you recruit have been expelled from the church and are only giving you false information. They will lead to your downfall,” a passionate Lwanga preached.

In November 2020, following the deadly protests after the arrest of Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, Lwanga preached the gospel of love and peace.

“Wherever you intend to fire bullets or hurl teargas canisters, ask yourself if it suits the motto, ‘For God and My Country. Let us always remember that God wants nothing from us but peace and all of us should strive to have that peace but not violence,” he said.

Lwanga also called out the government on kidnaps and torture. “I remember when NRM came to power, the President (Museveni) said they came to resist the politics and leadership of Idi Amin and Milton Obote regimes. If this is still the same National Resistance Movement, I call upon your government to continue resisting the evil abductions, torture and killings of people,” Lwanga said in February, 2021.

“We are deeply concerned about the actions of some security agencies in relation to the disappearance of some of our people, especially youths. This is brewing anger, division, fear and anxiety within the population,” Lwanga said in his last public appearance of the way of cross procession on the Easter weekend of last year.

“It totally contravenes the human rights frameworks to which we are signatory as a country. We are troubled that such a disregard of these God-given rights and freedoms shall weaken our social linkup of harmony, social cohesion and responsive leadership.

To say that Ssemogerere will not continue from where Dr. Cyprian Kizito stopped would be a hard sale.

“For the church to ask its congregation that vote for upright and God fearing people; that is my right and my duty,” Ssemogerere said when asked by NTV for his opinion on the controversy that engulfed last year’s general election in which senior NRM government officials accused the Catholic Church of openly supporting the Opposition candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi in Buganda.

“If the government is corrupt, the church has a right and mandate to inform and advise the government on that matter,” he said.

Brief bio of Archbishop Ssemogerere

Born on 30 June 1956 at Kisubi, in present-day Wakiso District, Ssemogerere attended Kigero Primary School before moving to Kisubi Boys Primary School, still in Wakiso District. He then studied at St. Maria Goretti Senior Secondary School Katende, where he completed his O-Level studies.

In 1976, Ssemogerere and seven other young men became pioneer students at St Mbaaga Seminary at Ggaba, on the southern outskirts of Kampala. In 1978, the late Cardinal Emmanuel Kiwanuka Nsubuga sent Ssemogerere to the Saint Francis de Sales Seminary, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the United States, where he graduated with a Master of Divinity degree in 1982.

He was ordained a priest on 3 June 1983 at Kampala, by Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, Archbishop of Kampala.

He served as a priest in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala, until 4 June 2008 when he was appointed Bishop of Kasana-Luweero where he led the diocese for 13 years until the death Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.

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