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Catholic, Orthodox churches face shortage of mass wine

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Archbishop Paul Ssemogerere of Kampala prays before serving holy communion to faithful during  mass at Kiwamirembe Catholic Shrine on December 31, 2022.  PHOTOS/MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

The Catholic and Orthodox churches are being hurt by a shortage of white mass wine, a significant item in celebrating Holy Mass.
In an April 30 letter to financial administrators /treasurers of Catholic dioceses in Uganda, Fr Asiku Alfred Tulu, the managing director of JW Inter Services Ltd, a firm that makes procurement for the Catholic Church, said the war in the Middle East had disrupted their movement both in the usual passage in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

Currently, Fr Tulu said, ships are diverted to take longer and safer routes through the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, which has caused major crises and delays in their arrival at Mombasa Port.
“…the information from our shippers indicates that wine will arrive by mid-May and we hope to clear it through Uganda Customs by the end of May. This is, therefore, to kindly request you to regulate the use of wine as much as possible. In the meantime, we have limited stock of white mass wine duly approved by the Uganda Episcopal Conference. Kindly note it is also limited,” he said in the letter.

Fr Ronnie Mubiru, St Jude Wakiso Catholic Parish priest, said they were told there were some shortages and the supply would be limited, but they still have some white mass wine in stock, which can carry them through several weeks.

“If the wine we have in stock gets finished, we shall talk to the diocese, they know better how that issue will be resolved,” Fr Mubiru told this publication.  
Fr John Kibuuka Bbosa, the Vicar General Uganda Orthodox Church, told Monitor this is not the first time they have experienced a scarcity of wine in the country. 
He said the problem has persisted, causing the prices of wine to shoot high.

According to Fr Bbosa, in the Orthodox Church, they have resorted to skipping some Sundays without having Holy masses.
The Vicar General revealed that the Orthodox Church only uses Altar Wine, which is made of pure red grapes.
“If we don’t purchase this wine from abroad, particularly from Orthodox countries like Greece, we import it from Tanzania, which is also producing some recommended wine,” he explained 
 He said a big bottle of Altar Wine ranges between Shs45,000 and Shs60,000 in supermarkets.

“The Holy Wine in the Orthodox Church is very important in the sense that when we pray and call the Holy Spirit, it is believed during communion, that wine turns into the Holy blood of Jesus Christ and the Holy hosts turn into the real body of Jesus Christ,” he said.
Fr James Matovu, the parish priest of Our Lady of Assumption Mwereerwe Catholic Church, said he cannot celebrate mass without wine.

Fr Matovu said they were told to use the available quantities sparingly until stocks are replenished.
“We use Altar Wine which is mainly imported from South Africa. And one bottle of one litre can take us for two months depending on the quantities used.”

He said the wine they have in stock at  Mwereerwe Parish will sustain them for some weeks.
In Yumbe District, Fr Robert Ayiko, the curate of Yumbe Parish, said the type of wine used for mass in the Parish is red mass wine, not white mass wine.

“I have never said mass with white wine because it is not available here. There could be white mass wine in other dioceses, but in Arua, we use what is available,” he said.
He added:  “The red wine we use is approved by the Church and  is imported from South  Africa, Spain and we buy a bottle at about Shs50,000 each.” 

In Maracha District, Fr Geoffrey Edemi, the parish priest of Kamaka, said although white wine is recommended, it is red wine which is commonly used in the district.
“The parish doesn’t have white mass wine and I have never used it during mass. We also have local wine produced in the diocese, but we don’t use it because it hasn’t been approved by the Uganda Episcopal Conference,” he said.

Katikkiro Charles Peter Mayiga of Buganda Kingdom receives holy communion during the Holy Mass at Lubaga Cathedral, Kampala in April 2023.

 Rev Fr Charles Kapuupa, the Parish Priest of Busoowa in Bugiri District, explained that wine is significantly a remembrance of the Blood of Jesus Christ shed and in memory of this wine is used.
“We do this in memory of His suffering, death, and resurrection and as we celebrate mass we use wine turned into His blood,” he said.  
He also said in the Old Testament, Jews leaving Egypt smeared the blood of the lamb on their doorposts and were spared by the Angel of Death. “And now we use the blood of Christ to keep us safe,” Fr Kapuupa said.

Fr Anthony Mwase, of St Kizito Kidera Catholic Parish in Buyende District, said white  mass wine is recommended because it is not fermented and comes directly from Rome or South Africa.
Another priest, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they will wait for instructions and directions from the diocese on what to do in case of a crisis.

“Our supplier is the Catholic Diocese of Jinja and we are assured of sustainable supplies from the stocks and of course, we had some stocks of red wine and now we make do with the white wine,” the source disclosed.
However, the Anglican Church is not facing the same scarcity because theirs is locally secured.

“Our churches are not in any way affected because our priests are free to use wine whether locally or imported provided they regulate the quantity they give to Christians, that’s why we sometimes encourage dipping (the bread in wine) and give out to worshippers,”   Rev Canon William Ongeng, the Provincial Secretary of the Church of Uganda, said.

The war in Gaza has raged on since October 7, 2023, when the Palestinian Hamas fighters attacked Israel killing at least 1,200 and abducting more than 100 Jews. 
Israel’s retaliation by attacking Gaza has seen more than 34,262 people killed, 70 percent of them women and children. 

 The seven-month war has seen many other countries sucked into the conflict, leading to the Red Sea, a major navigation route to Africa, becoming unsafe for cargo ships.

Compiled by Noeline Nabukenya, Al Mahdi Ssenkabirwa Philip Wafula , Sam Caleb Opio  Robert Elema, Felix Warom Okello.