The stand off between the Catholic Church and the government over the religious institution’s alleged support and promotion of opposition candidates may escalate as more priests show their public support for Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
On Friday, the former presidential candidate hosted nine priests at his residence in Magere, Wakiso district as he celebrated his 39th birthday.
Much as the event was meant to be a religious-led thanksgiving, it took a political turn as the priests took a swipe at government officials who have in the past few weeks criticized the Church for supporting the National Unity Platform (NUP) leader.
“We heard some people attacking the Church for showing support to Kyagulanyi, they should know that the Church chooses principles,” said Rev. Fr. Jude Makanga, the parish priest of Ggayaaza Catholic parish.
Makanga was the main celebrant at the thanksgiving mass which was also attended by priests Joseph Nsubuga, Denis Yiga, Edward Jingo, Patrick Ssekibaala, Anthony Musaala, Martin Oyo, James Ssenyiga and Deogratius Kiibi.
Apart from Musaala and Kiibi who have previously spoken openly in support of Kyagulanyi, their colleagues have been keeping a low profile but at the celebration, some went as far as calling him “Uganda’s democratically elected president.”
“Conscience is the voice of God that tells us to speak against evil,” Makanga said as he further downplayed claims by some ministers that priests mobilised against non-catholics.
“Muhammad Ssegirinya [Kawempe North MP-elect] and Muwada Nkunyingi [Kyadondo East MP-elect] among others are Muslims, if we [the Church] campaigned against non-Catholics, how did those win?” Makanga wondered.
Ministers Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja (Agriculture), Esther Mbayo (Presidency) and Godfrey Kiwanda (Tourism) blamed the Catholic Church and Buganda Kingdom for the National Resistance Movement’s (NRM) poor performance at this year’s general elections.
Like Rev. Fr. Richard Mugisha of Masaka Diocese who last week said that he won’t be gagged by anyone, this group of priests made it clear that as ministers of the Church, they have a duty to speak against government excesses.
Read more: You won’t silence me, priest tells gov’t
They donated gifts to Kyagulanyi – the birthday boy, gave him a special prayer and cash to facilitate the running of NUP party activities.
Mathais Mpuuga, the party’s deputy president (Buganda) hailed the church for standing on the side of the “oppressed.”
“I’m happy that the Church has come out to be on the side of the oppressed because the mission of the church is not only to preach the Gospel; the church has a duty to speak the truth so that it stands for posterity. We want to thank the Church for not preaching water and drinking wine,” Mpuuga said.
Kyagulanyi added his voice, thanking the church for “standing for the truth.”
“It surprises us that there are some religious leaders who continue to tell us to be calm and peaceful but they have failed to speak out against the rampant abductions of our supporters,” Kyagulanyi said.
He addressed his guests on his Supreme Court petition challenging the outcome of the presidential elections saying that while they don’t trust the judges, they trust the courts and the law.
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