Fr Kibuuka: Why I severed ties with the Catholic Church

Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka at his Mamre Prayer Centre in Namugongo, Wakiso District, last Sunday. PHOTO / GABRIEL BUULE.

What you need to know:

  • Infighting inside the Catholic Church is one of the under-reported subjects world over. On many occasions, information does not come out of the grapevine given the church’s culture of concealment. A former aide to the departed Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, however, broke ranks with secrecy. His revelations in a no-holds-barred interview were as illuminating as shocking, writes Gabriel Buule.

It is a Thursday afternoon when I brave Jjanda Village’s dusty terrains in Namugongo-Wakiso District to meet the priest recently beatified to become a Bishop.

To arrange the interview, Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka is just a call away through his personal media assistant. At his new pastoral station, it becomes immediately obvious that the man of God has many people vying for his attention.

“I’m glad that you are here, but I apologise that I will not attend to you because I have to attend to many Christians after a busy day. Don’t worry about transport because I have directed Alex, my driver, to give you a lift back to the office,” he humbly apologises.

My next appointment is pencilled in for a Saturday afternoon. I endure the same journey. The second meeting gives me a chance to have another look at the place and interact with the people who live with the man of God. 

What I had not initially seen was that the place has many things that are identical to the Roman Catholic Church. Paintings signifying the Way of the Cross, an emerging grotto and cross and—most importantly—an altar to which many Christians who arrive bow to before making the sign of the cross.

This time around I do get an audience with Bishop Kibuuka who flashes a wide smile to welcome me.
“You seem to be hungry,” he half asks in Luganda before placing an order for me through one of his aides.

The aide has to now go to a restaurant that is a few kilometres away. Clearly, this affable man of God—who also studied psychology—is trying to buy time to attend to his flock. When we finally get to the interview, two hours later, his story about the controversial departure from the Roman Catholic Church in 2016 feels oddly familiar.

He starts off by telling me about his childhood, the time as priest in the Roman Catholic Church, and how he ended up at Mamre. This followed his dismissal by a man who educated him at graduate level, housed and mentored him. So, is he still a priest?

“I’m a priest and it is a gift that cannot be taken away from me, and I’m a Catholic, although I stopped subscribing to the Roman Catholic sect,” he explains.
Donned in liturgical vestments, Bishop Kibuuka opens up about his departure from the biggest religious outfit. 

He says he was relieved of his duties in an odd manner.
Asked to stay away from any pastoral activity and sentenced to 10 years in what he terms as a “solitary” facility in Ggoli without a phone, Bishop Kibuuka appears to still hurt. He is currently the leader of the Antiochian Eastern Orthodox Church in Uganda.
 
Leaving Catholicism
It was in 2016 when a woman identified as Winfred Nantongo came out in media to say she was involved in a sex relationship with then Fr Kibuuka. When the woman offered an apology for tarnishing Fr Kibuuka’s image, this was supposed to put a full stop to the story. It did not.

“I was forced out of Church on unfounded claims and the move came to stall because my accusers had no evidence against me,” he says, adding: “At one point, I recall a monsignor, who wrote a dossier that he read in my presence. Part of it indicated that I should be expelled from the country.”

After being transferred from Rubaga to Bukalango, he was given administrative leave. 

“Cardinal [Emmanuel] Wamala and Bishop Kakooza on many occasions intervened to block my dismissal, but at one point, it ran out of their hands, ” he recalls.

One day—November 14, 2014—particularly stood out. Summoned to the archbishop’s residence, he was relieved of his duties. Less than an hour after his suspension, then Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga (RIP) revoked the decision.
 
Condemned to solitary
Before his dismissal in July 2016, Kibuuka says he had seen it coming. This inevitability forced him to plan his way out. Bishop Kibuuka notes that he was served with a letter from Archbishop Lwanga indicating that he had been relieved of his pastoral duties. The letter also reportedly ordered him to go and stay incommunicado in Ggoli Convent in Mpigi District at a Roman Catholic-manned facility for 10 years. 

All he could think about at the time was his elderly mother. When he was ordained a priest, Bishop Kibuuka was welcomed with a lot of responsibilities.
“By then I was 37 years and it meant I would serve a punishment for a crime I didn’t know about for 10 years and I would come back at 47.

My mother, my friends, my family and the dependents would be badly affected,” he says, adding: “The only person who knows why I was discontinued from the Roman Catholic Church is Archbishop Lwanga, but I forgave him and I took a different path to serve God.”
 
Talking celibacy
When he stood in front of the tabernacle in 2008, Bishop Kibuuka accepted to serve God. He adds that he respected and observed celibacy all his years at the altar in the Roman Catholic Church. 

“Many church leaders practice celibacy during the day, but the most important thing is to be true to yourself. We should stay away from pretence,” he says, adding: “There are two things you can’t hide—love and drunkenness.”

He says the Apostle Paul’s writings on the subject are explicit. Paul makes it clear that “those who marry are not guilty of sin; those who burn with sexual passion should marry instead of being in a constant struggle against immorality.”
 
The road ahead
Before hitting a dead end in the Roman Catholic Church, Bishop Kibuuka knew the worst was coming. So, on June 31, 2016, he resolved that he was going to remain a servant of God. This birthed the idea of the Mamre Prayer Centre, which he created quietly. He was soon joined by two priests. One would later return to the Roman Catholic Church.

He says the prayer centre that has birthed churches in all regions of the country was started with Shs20m raised by Christians to buy seven acres of land in Namugongo.
The prayer centre now boasts of 33 priests, nuns, hundreds of catechists, 60 seminarians, and thousands of followers. He says soon, a church building will be established, as well as other branches of the Antiochian rite, which is apostolic in nature. He has also established a seminary that is training priests and other religious leaders.
 
Growing up 
Unlike many houses in their village in Ssemukombe in Mpigi District, Bishop Kibuuka did not grow up in a mud-and-wattle hut. His parents, he adds, worked hard to look after their children. His best childhood memory was when Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga came to their village to commission Kawumba Sub-parish, which was his childhood church.
The cardinal turned up at 8pm, 11 hours after he was originally expected. Not that this dampened moods.
“The cardinal turned up in a red Benz and we requested the driver to turn off the engine and we pushed it up to the church,” he recalls, adding: “Cardinal was dressed in a long gown and I recall people calling it “Kapamaanya” and it had boys holding it like peg boys.”

Joining priesthood
Remarkably, a smoke pipe is what prompted Bishop Kibuuka to join the priesthood. Well, in a way. He was always intrigued watching his father smoke the pipe. His grandfather, however, forbade him from ever touching the smoke pipe.
However, when a one Fr John from Missionaries of Africa turned up with one on a visit to their home church, Bishop Kibuuka gave in to his temptations.

“I asked Fr John to allow me to touch his smoke pipe and when my mother saw me, she beat me up,” he recalls, adding: “The priest stopped her. I saw my mother very humbled in the presence of a priest and I realised that being a priest was a special gift.”

He also reveals that at one point, he contemplated becoming a politician and he had been inspired by President Museveni and former army commander Gen Mugisha Muntu.

Who is Bishop Kibuuka?

Bishop Jacinto Kibuuka is the 7th child in the family of eight children of the Late Richard Francis Kalyesubula and Mary Leticia Nantume Kalyesubula of Ssemukombe-Mawokota in Mpigi District.

Born on August 17, 1978, he studied at St Theresa Kawumba and later joined St Balikuddembe Mitala Maria for secondary studies. He went through St Mbaaga Seminary, where he studied Philosophy and Theology and other studies.
After being ordained as a Catholic priest in 2008 at Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Kibuuka acquired a Master’s Degree in Health Education and Promotion at Nkozi University.
On November 12, 2017, he was ordained as the first Bishop of the Antiochian Central and Eastern Orthodox Church at his Mamre International Prayer Centre in Namugongo, Wakiso District. 
Kibuuka, who currently runs the Mamre Prayer Centre, doubles as the leader of the Antiochian Eastern Orthodox Church in Uganda.

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