Archbishop Kasujja speaks on career as a papal envoy

Archbishop Augustine Kasujja during the interview.  PHOTOS | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Clocking retirement age means that one is simply a retiree, but not in the Catholic Church. Even when a priest reaches the mandatory retirement age, he still has to send a resignation letter to the Pope. Archbishop Augustine Kasujja followed in the tradition. Daily Monitor’s Beatrice Nakibuuka talked to Archbishop Kasujja about his years of service and plans for retirement.

After serving as the first African Apostolic Nuncio in various countries, Archbishop Augustine Kasujja hang up his boots on August 31 .

Also known as a Papal Nuncio, an apostolic nuncio is a clerical diplomat, serving as a permanent diplomatic representative of the Holy See to either a state or international organisation.

The retirement followed the submission of a resignation letter to Pope Francis in April after reaching the retirement age of 75. 

The resignation procedure is in line with the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.

The retired archbishop served in Algeria, Argentina, Haiti, Bangladesh, Portugal, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, where he was also in charge of all the islands in the Caribbean.

He looks back at the years of service as ones that were filled with many incredible life-changing experiences.

In the 1990s, the Nuncio’s house in Haiti was set on fire during a public demonstration. He was deployed there to calm the situation since the acting Nuncio had to leave.

In 1996, seven monks in Algeria were kidnapped and killed by Islamic terrorists. The Nuncio had earlier been threatening into leaving the station.

“I was asked to go because I was less at risk of getting attacked since I was black,” he said.

Ordination and service

Archbishop Kasujja was ordained a priest on January 1, 1973, at St Peters Basilica in Rome.

“But when I returned, I presided over my first Mass at Mitala Maria in Mpigi District as a celebration and what was heartwarming was that Masses had started being conducted in the local language, Luganda,” he says.

Afterwards, he was posted as a parish priest in Mubende District in 1974. 

Two months later, he fell sick and after his treatment, he was posted to Katende as a parish priest in the same year.

Diplomacy

After serving for a year, he received a notification in October 1975 that he was going for diplomatic service.

“I was also surprised. It had never been my aspiration or desire to serve as a diplomat, but the invitation came from Rome. Since I had studied from there for more than seven years, the proposal came from God. I think someone suggested my name,” he says.

The retired archbishop then joined the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy to study diplomacy. Diplomats of the Church are required to study international law.

They are usually envoys deployed to different parts of the world as advocates for world peace and human rights.

They also ensure dialogue and mediation to avoid conflicts and enmity.

“We also have a duty with the local church in the country where we are sent to serve. The Nuncio represents the Pope in that country of service and plays a fundamental role in the appointment of bishops,” Archbishop Kasujja says.

In April 1979, then at the age of 33, he was posted as a diplomat in Argentina where he served for three years.

That gave him the opportunity to get a deeper understanding of the Spanish language. 

He became Chaplain of a House of sisters who were in charge of a home for the elderly and was in responsible for holding Mass with university students.

He was ordained as a priest by Pope Paul II whom he describes as “a man of great faith and very patient.”

During his years of service, Archbishop Kasujja has served under Popes Paul IV, John Paul II, Benedict XIV and Pope Francis. He refers to their service as selfless and inspirational.

He says Pope John Paul II was very understanding, keen to listen and would take note of all the small details.

Then, Pope Benedict XIV was a real theologian who helped to clarify a lot about the doctrine of the Catholic Church. He is the brain behind the new catechism.

For Pope Francis, he admires his simple life because he refused to sleep in fancy apartments meant for the Popes and continued to live with bishops.

Appointed Nuncio

Kasujja was appointed Apostolic Nuncio in Algeria on May 26, 1998, but he  first had to be ordained a bishop. 

Archbishop Augustine Kasujja hands in his resignation letter to a Vatican official in Rome on April 26. 

He returned to Uganda where Cardinal Wamala ordained him on August 22, 1998 at Rubaga Cathedral.

“I requested that I become ordained as a bishop in my home country so that my relatives could be there to witness (the function),” he says.

That decision was particularly informed by the fact that no member of his family was present in Rome when he was ordained a priest.

 They could not afford to pay for the trip to Rome. While serving as a Nuncio in Algeria, Kasujja was part of the team that had to choose a successor to replace the bishop who was killed in a terrorist bomb.

Archbishop Kasujja says he grew up in an interesting and cordial family that enjoyed peace and warmth.

“My parents were Christians. This made me discover the priestly vocation even before primary school. By the time I started school, I knew that I was going to be a priest,” he says.

While at Kisubi Seminary between 196o and 1965, he was chosen to become the Sacristan and was in charge of the side drummers in the school band.

When Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, came to Uganda in 1965 for her honeymoon, it was his band that was selected to receive her at Entebbe International Airport.

Their band was again invited to play at State House Entebbe as the Union Jack was being brought down on the eve of Uganda’s Independence in October 1962.

Retirement plans

Kasujja says he has emerged richer from the experiences as a diplomat who has had the opportunity to meet several people from different parts of the world and also engaged in several peace talks and reconciliation. 

He plans to take his rest, but will remain available to help young priests who might need his help.

“I have been in charge and serving at the frontline for 42 years, I also have to rest. I am happy to say that we have young priests who can take on from where I have ended and where they need assistance I can always come in to help,” he says.

Education,  family

Archbishop Kasujja started school in 1953, completing his primary education at Sango Primary School in 1959.

He joined Minor Seminary at Kisubi for a secondary education that he completed in 1965 before proceeding to Katigondo Major Seminary where he studied Philosophy for a year and a half. 

It was from there that he went to Albany university in Rome where he pursued a Masters’ degree in Philosophy. He studied a Theology at the same University. He studied and lived in Rome for about eight years in all.

He was ordained a Deacon at the age of 27 and six days later a Priest.

Ordination from a Deacon to a priest usually takes a year, but the Church was at that time celebrating 350 years of the foundation of the congregation of evangelisation of people.

Family background

The forth out of the 13 children, He was born to Joseph Naluswa and Catherine Nanseko at Mitala Maria in Mpigi District on April 26, 1946. He was the first African Apostolic Nuncio and has served as a diplomat for the Catholic Church for over 42 years.

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