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Archbishop Bakyenga seeks to retire, writes to Pope Francis

Graduands of Uganda Martyrs University offer gifts to Mbarara Archbishop Paul Bakyenga ate a previous graduation ceremony. Archbishop Bakyenga, who retires next year announced on Saturday that he had asked Pope Francis to appoint his successor (FILE PHOTO)

MBARARA – The Archbishop of Mbarara, His Grace Paul Bakyenga, has said he has written to Pope Francis asking to retire because of poor health as he nears the retirement age of 75 years.

Archbishop Bakyenga, who was consecrated Bishop in 1989 and appointed Archbishop in 1999, says he feels he no longer has the energy to continue serving in the position.

“I celebrated my 74th birthday on June 30 and I want to retire before I am 75. When I was out of the country I told Pope Francis that I wanted to retire but he neither accepted nor denied so I am asking for your prayers so that Pope Francis can allow me retire because I feel I can no longer move on, but I need a lot of prayers,’’ he said at the ordination of 12 priests and 12 deacons at Nyamitanga Cathedral Mbarara on Saturday.

“The Catholic Church allows us to retire before 75 years because you do not have enough energy to run the operations of the church. So pray for me so that I can retire before 75years,’’ he added.

The Archbishop returned to Uganda in March this year, having spent over 4 months seeking treatment in Germany over an unknown illness.

Under his stewardship, the number of Catholics in the archdiocese, which covers 10 former Ankole districts, has grown from about 700,000 to more than 1 million today. When he became a bishop, the diocese had 18 parishes but now boasts of 43. The development of the diocese has been so profound that there is a recommendation to give Bushenyi its own independent diocese.

He has pioneered St Joseph’s University in Mbarara, and a specialised hospital for children – The Holy Innocents Children Hospital at Nyamitanga, among other projects.

A fourth born in a family of 10 children of Sipiriano Kaamuza and Maria Gakibayo of Bumbaire, Igara in Bushenyi District, Archbishop Bakyenga was born on June 30, 1944.

He went to Ibaare Primary School, before he joined Ibanda Preparatory Seminary from 1958 to 1960. In 1961, he joined Kitabi Seminary from Ibanda, and then enrolled at Bukalasa seminary in 1965 for A-Level studies but he did not complete. “At Bukalasa, we got stubborn and we were stopped,” he says.

He then enrolled at Kitigondo to study philosophy but abandoned the course two year after. At this point, Bishop John Baptist Kakubi of Mbarara, sent him to study at St Andrews College in Scotland, where he would obtain a degree in Theology. He was ordained a priest on July 11, 1971 at Mushenga parish at the age of 27. Eighteen years later, 45-year-old Bakyenga was appointed bishop.

He has also served as Chaplain of Ntare School in Mbarara, Rector of Kitabi Seminary, and Rector of Ggaba National Seminary from 1985 to 1989, when he was appointed bishop.

On January 2, 1999, Pope John Paul II appointed Bakyenga archbishop at the age of 55.

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