Museveni addressing the bishops at Rubaga
The organizers of the Symposium of the Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) were on Sunday caught off guard by President Yoweri Museveni’s early arrival at Rubaga cathedral.
The president arrived at Rubaga at around 8:40am ahead of the 10:00am mass and more than an early early. There was nobody to receive him as he marched through the half-empty church quietly with a few bodyguards. A number of organizers were still setting up the church hall and testing equipment.
Journalists too never noticed him as many were still setting up their equipment in desired vantage points. Museveni's unusual early arrival was moments later noticed by Rev Fr Joseph Ruzindana, one of the day’s masters of ceremonies, who immediately alerted colleagues as well as the congregation.
Rev Ruzidana later related the surprise arrival of the president to the second coming of Jesus. Museveni is a perennial latecomer for nearly all events and functions in Uganda (sometimes as late as 8 hours).
“I think that’s how Jesus will come when nobody is expecting. He will come like a thief in the night, is wise that we stay prepared all the time,” Fr Ruzindana said, sending the president into laughter as he waved to the congregants.
Almost after twenty minutes, a few prelates led by the Kampala Archbishop Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga moved in to welcome the president before he stepped out of the church. Mass later started at 10:13am and Museveni requested to address the congregants before the start of mass.
In his address, Museveni challenged the church to engage parishioners in wealth creation so as to foster development and raise standards of living on the continent.
Museveni noted that without doubt, Africa is doing well spiritually than any other continent in the world, where, according to him, the flock and shepherds seem to have lost focus and allowed evils like homosexuality to penetrate the church.
"I’m very glad that spiritually Africa is doing much better than other continents. Other continents are in deep spiritual crisis and I don’t have to go to the details. When somebody can get to a situation where they can’t tell a difference between a man and a man, then you know there is a very serious situation there." said Museveni.
He added that although Africans have developed spiritually, the continent is still locked under formidable poverty which needs to be checked by efforts and forces from the political and religious arena. Museveni says that although Africa has a big mass of land and big population as compared to the United States of America, its productivity rate is too low as many people are stuck in subsistence farming over the years.
The president stressed that the poverty of the people on the continent hurts the government and the church in equal measure since it is difficult to preach to the poor. He says he always observed that even while offering to church, many still have nothing to offer to their God.
Over 300 Catholic bishops from Africa are in Uganda for the 18th Plenary Assembly and Golden Jubilee which will run up to July 29, under the theme; Church-Family of God in Africa, Celebrate Your Jubilee! Proclaim Jesus Christ Your Savior. Museveni bought all the robes to be worn by the over 300 participants.
According to Uganda Episcopal Conference, the plenary which will be held at Speke Resort Munyonyo will deliberate on how far the Church in Africa has come in its evangelizing mission.
Discussions of the assembly will deliberate on the new pastoral priorities for the Church in Africa by reviewing the journey of SECAM and give direction on where the Church in Africa should be in the next fifty years, in terms of pastoral priorities.
SECAM was put in place out of the desire of the African Bishops who attended the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), to establish a forum from which the Church in Africa could speak with one voice on matters pertaining to the local and the universal Church. The idea was concretized in July 1969, during the visit of Pope Paul VI to Uganda.