Masaka, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Hundreds of Christians in Masaka Diocese are risking being excluded from participating in sacraments and services of the Catholic faith over associating with a priest who opened a parallel prayer centre in the area.
Sections of the Catholic laity in Masaka Diocese recently shifted their loyalty and started congregating with a breakaway faction of the Holy Family Ministries led by Reverend Brother John Baptist Baliruno. The priest currently operates a prayer centre in Kisosso cell, Kimanya-Kabonera division.
The church attracts hundreds of followers who go there to seek redemption prayers and spiritual blessings, and to acquire different religious items used for liturgical intercession. However, the administration of Masaka Diocese has denounced Brother Baliruno’s activities in the area and cautioned faithfuls against his religious assemblies.
Masaka Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator, Reverend Father James Ssendege Ssekito, says that the Catholic Church doesn’t approve Baliruno’s religious ministries. An official statement about the Ministry declares Baliruno a defiant priest who deviated from the standard doctrines of the Catholic Church, which renders his ministry inconsistent with the Catholic faith he claims to profess.
Fr Ssendege says that through their leadership spread out in the diocese right from the basic Christian communities, they have put the congregation on notice to stay away from the new ministry if they want to continue associating with the Catholic Church.
In his worship centre, Br Baliruno uses different liturgical items such as the rosary, the cross, burning candles and crucifixes among other symbols of Holy Sacraments that are identical to the Roman Catholic Church. His followers congregate on Saturday for their main mass and conduct lunch and evening prayer sessions on the other days of the week except for Sunday when they are encouraged to go back and attend the traditional church.
Fr Ssendege says that some unsuspecting Catholics are being misled by the slight similarities in the way mass is conducted, but adds that they are committed to guiding their flock from the apparent religious manipulation.
Francis Kasekende, the assistant to Brother Baliruno, who is the caretaker of the Holy Family Ministries prayer Center Kisoso, says that they are not in competition with the traditional Catholic Church and wonders why their ministry is being denounced by the diocesan leadership.
He explains that their ministry operates as a Christian fellowship, through which people are counselled and prayed for to overcome troubles.
Margaret Nakibuule, a regular congregant at Prayer Centre says she still pays allegiance to the Catholic Church, indicating that their association with Br Baliruno is large because he leads them in strong prayers.
She prefers instead of denouncing and demonizing the fellowship, the diocesan leadership should engage Baliruno to better understand his methods of evangelism which according to her, are supplementary to the Catholic faith and Christianity in general.