The death on July 16 of John Bosco Kyeyune, the renowned leader of the Mt Sion Prayer Centre Bukalango – also known as Mukajanga- could not have come at a more crisis-filled moment for the Catholic Church of Uganda.
Earlier in March, Archbishop Lwanga had suspended Mukajanga over activities related to his Mukajanga Ministries which also organised prayer tours of Israel. Mukajanga ministries also operated prayers centres in various places in Kampala city, including shopping malls.
He also ran a TV programmes.
His death occurred while the church was making sense of a dramatic announcement the day before by another renowned and controversial priest, Fr. Jacinto Kibuka that he was renouncing membership of the church and joining the Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC). Fr. Kibuka was an assistant of Mukajanga at Bukalango until Archbishop Lwanga shifted him to Namugongo in an attempt to control a growing rivalry between the two.
Where does it leave Archbishop Lwanga and the church?
But on July 15 at a press conference at his Mamre Prayer Centre in Namugongo, right next to the Catholic Church’s biggest basilica in Uganda, announced he was quitting the church. He said he loved Archbishop Lwanga but blamed Mukajanga and another charismatic priest, Monsignor Expedito Magembe of Mt Sion Prayer Centre Bukalango for fighting him.
“Self-seekers are jealous of my success in praying for people and during the Pope’s visit,” he said.
Fr. Kibuka’s move appears to have been designed to thwart Archbishop Lwanga’s bid to frustrate his Mamre Prayer Centre in Namugongo. It is said that Lwanga was frustrated that the main Catholic cathedral at Lubaga and the world renowned shrine at Namugongo were losing worshipers to Mamre and Bukalango.
After preaching to empty pews, he pounced on a controversy relating to a sex scandal that Fr. Kibuka was involved in and ordered him to close the Mamre Centre. In the July notice, Archbishop Lwanga also announced that he was suspending Fr. Kibuuka. It emerged that he was banishing him to a far off parish called Ggoli where he would not talk to people or make a phone call for ten years.
Mukajanga’s death also occurred when Archbishop Lwanga had just issued new tough guidelines regarding the conduct of services by priests associated with the charismatic movement of the Catholic Church.
Archbishop Lwanga appears to have picked his cue from Pope Francis at the Vatican who about three weeks ago, ordered the publication of new regarding the place of the charismatic renewal in the Catholic Church.
According to the guidelines, Archbishop Lwanga repeated that only ordained priests have the authority to administer holy oils and that not everyone can bless or sell Holy Oils.
Holy oils or chrisms are an important part of Catholic Church liturgies as they are believed to be blessed and possess supernatural powers to protect the faithful and heal the sick.
Lwanga was unhappy that Mukajanga, who was a lay leader and not ordained, had resorted to selling the holy oils and encouraging members of his congregation to freely share and use them without a priest.
At the time of his death, Mukajanga was set to travel to Israel where he told his followers, he always got the holy oil from.
Archbishop Lwanga also banned the practice of congregants falling, rolling on the ground, or shouting during prayers. This was also seen to be aimed at the services conducted by priests like Mukajanga and Kibuka who preached that such behavior during prayer showed the presence of the Holy Spirit. Belief in the Holy Spirit is central to the charismatic movement as its followers believe their leaders have “special gifts” bestowed upon them by the Holy Spirit. Among these gifts is the power to exorcise demons.
But, according to Lwanga, only a bishop has the right and responsibility to appoint people to act as exorcists. Lwanga announced the names of four priests as the official exorcists. They did not include Mukajanga or Kibuka.
In another guideline which appeared to specifically target Mukajanga who had a popular radio and TV programme, Lwanga ordered that a charismatic preachers aiming to use public media was going forward required to get approval from their bishop.
Finally, in another guideline which appeared to target Kibuka, the archbishop ordered that a charismatic preacher require prior permission of the local parish priests to use any place as a worship centre.
It is not clear whether Lwanga should feel some relief now that Mukajanga is dead and Kibuka is out. It is not even clear if that is what the Catholic Church wants.