On Thursday, April 7, the body of Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, the fallen Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala will be interred inside Lubaga Cathedral, making him the third prelate to be buried there.
Bishop Joseph Georges Edouard Michaud, who served as vicar apostolic of Uganda from 1933 until his death in 1945, was the first to be buried in the cathedral.
The Canadian clergyman belonged to the Missionaries of Africa (better known as the White Fathers) who established their presence in Uganda 1879.
He was followed by the late Archbishop Joseph Kiwanuka Nakabaale, the first native African to be ordained a Catholic bishop in modern times.
Kiwanuka died in 1966, five years after his elevation and transfer from Masaka to Lubaga as Archbishop of Rubaga – later renamed Kampala Archdiocese.
Therefore, the announcement by Msgr . Charles Kasibante, the interim administrator of Kampala archdiocese that his ordinary would be buried in the cathedral did not come as a surprise to especially those with knowledge of the church’s traditions.
It is a norm in the Roman Catholic Church to bury bishops in the respective churches where they served.
This tradition can be traced from the 787 AD resolution at the Second Council of Nicaea, requiring that all new churches be built with relics of saints placed at the altar area.
Although this decree was revisited almost 1,000 years later, it remained a desirable practice that Bishops – considered to be successors of the Apostles of Jesus, be buried in their respective cathedrals especially if the dead bishop, like in the case of Archbishop Lwanga, has been the reigning diocesan head.
In case the dead bishop had retired, like in the case of the late Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa, the reigning bishop can decide to bury that bishop anywhere befitting of a bishop – especially if that bishop left no will.
Kaggwa was buried in the Chapel of Committo, a mausoleum in the cemetery outside Bukalasa Minor Seminary in Masaka diocese.
The diocesan leadership resolved that all its bishops and other bishops wishing to be buried in Masaka would be buried in that particular chapel, built in 1914 on the directives of the late Bishop Henri Streitcher, the first bishop to head the Uganda vicariate.
Bishop Anthony Guillermain’s body became the first to be buried in the mausoleum on March 9, 1915 but for 100 years, it remained unused until the death of Bishop Paul Kalanda who wished to be buried in Masaka, his home diocese, than Moroto or Fort Portal dioceses where he served as bishop.
Streicher and Bishop Adrian Kivumbi Ddungu, the second native African to head Masaka Diocese were buried inside Villa Maria Cathedral.
“Because of Villa Maria’s historical importance, Bishop Ddungu preferred to be buried there, a wish that Bishop Kaggwa, as the reigning bishop at the time [of Ddungu’s death in December2009] granted,” Fr. Edward Ssekabanja, the Masaka diocesan chancellor said in an earlier interview.
“If Bishop Kaggwa, at the time of his death, was still the reigning Bishop of Masaka, the tradition of the Church would require us to bury him in his cathedral which is Kitovu cathedral, but then, we resolved that as a diocese, all our bishops should be buried at the cemetery chapel at Bukalasa,” he added.
This was re-emphasized by Msgr Gerald Kalumba, the former vicar general of Kampala archdiocese that it is has been a tradition of the church to bury bishops in the cathedrals they served.
“It is the tradition and in many times bishops who served in that particular cathedral are worthy of being buried in there,” said Msgr Kalumba.
“In some cases, if the bishop left a Will indicating a place where he wishes to be buried, his Will is honored,” he added, citing the example of Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga who ‘humbled’ himself by making a Will to be buried at the Nnalukolongo based Bakateyamba home which he founded.
Msgr Kasibante said, Lwanga will be laid in the middle of the two of his ‘fore grandfathers;’ Michaud and Kiwanuka who were buried on the right-wing of the church just behind the area reserved for the choir.