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Pope Francis saddened by death of Archbishop Emeritus of Tororo James Odongo

FILE PHOTO 1993: Archbishop Odongo and his brother Fr. Alfed Opio meet Pope St. John Paul II when he visited Uganda

Rubaga pays last respects to Archbishop James Odongo

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  Pope Francis has said he is saddened by the passing away of Rev. James Odongo, Archbishop Emeritus of Tororo.

In a brief message delivered at a requiem mass at Rubaga on Sunday by Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda Italian Archbishop Luigi Bianco, Pope Francis sent heartfelt condolences to the Archbishop of Tororo Emmanuel Obbo and to the clergy. “United with you in prayer, and thanksgiving for the long service of Odongo in Uganda,” Pope Francis said.

The Archbishop of Kampala Cyprian Kizito Lwanga narrated the highlights of the life of  James Odongo, which included the fact that as a young 34-year-old, he was just the fourth Ugandan Archbishop to attend the Vatican Council.

The Second Vatican Council in Rome in 1965 marked the transformation of the Church all over the world. Among the changes included how mass is conducted.

“In mass today, the priest faces the congregation.  It was not always like that, all our altars were up there, and we were facing the cross on the wall. Today, as a result of the Second Vatican Council, the bishops emulated Christ at the last Super, where he faced his disciples,” he said in his homily.

“Archbishop Odongo’s legacy is his participating in that Vatican Council,” Kizito Lwanga said. He said  that put him in the lead to head various Catholic bodies years later, including the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Africa (AMECEA) where he was the first African chair in 1974.

Archbishop of Kampala Kizito Lwanga also hailed Archbishop Odongo for his leading role in the formation of Centenary Bank in 1983. He led the delegation to meet the then President Milton Obote to make a case for the formation of the church bank, and provided leadership in its formation, and the building of the new headquarters at Mapeera House.

“We thank God for the gift of Archbishop Odongo’s success story,” he said, but warned that God reminds humans of their destiny in many ways, including in the passing away of a person like Odongo.

“As long as we come from God, we all have to die. Even those who are powerful, or kill others, hence the 5th commandment, God commands ‘thou shalt not kill’. It is evil, and we are hearing a lot of killing lately,” he said. ” I warn whoever is doing it to stop it.”


He called for Ugandans to follow the SOPs to control the COVID-19 pandemic, and urged the youth to shun violence. ” I call upon youth to stop whatever violence. Those who are campaigning, do not sow seeds of hatred, but always remember our beautiful motto ‘For God and my country’.

He called for restrained by security forces enforcing the SOPS. ” Do not use too much force. Beating up people, brings hatred instead of peace.”

Tororo remembers

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, the 89 year old had 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.

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 born on March 27, 1931 at Molo, along Tororo-Mbale road.

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.


Burial arrangments 
✳           – Requiem Mass Lubaga Cathedral
✳ Dec 7 – Body arrives at St. Austin, Mbale 3pm
✳ Dec 8 – Requiem Mass St Austin 12.00pm
✳ Dec 8 – Body arrives at Cathedral Tororo 4pm
✳ Dec 9 – Mass of Christian burial Uganda Martyrs Cathedral Tororo 12pm


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