President Yoweri Museveni has commended the outstanding work done by Archbishop Paul Bakyenga of Mbarara Archdiocese and his generation of religious leaders from other religious denominations in Western Uganda in working and promoting religious tolerance as well as the unity of the people they lead in development.
The President expressed his appreciation to the Archbishop in particular and other religious leaders at Nyamitanga Cathedral in Mbarara Municipality during the Episcopal Silver Jubilee celebrations marking 25 years since the installation of Archbishop Bakyenga in 1989 as Bishop of Mbarara.
President Museveni said that during his service as Archbishop of Mbarara, His Grace Bakyenga has embraced religious tolerance, resisted religious sectarianism and defused religious rivalries that characterized the region in post-independence Uganda.
He further said that by preaching unity and religious tolerance, Archbishop Bakyenga and his contemporaries were fulfilling God’s cardinal commandment of “Love God with all your heart and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”
He appealed to the new generation of religious leaders to emulate that example.
Mr. Museveni further hailed Archbishop Bakyenga and the Catholic Church in general for being development oriented citing the contribution of the Catholic Church in the education and health sectors and taking care of orphans and disadvantaged people in society.
The President appealed to religious leaders to embrace and support government efforts to eradicate household poverty noting that once the population is economically empowered, the people will be able to support religious institutions and programmes.
He said that people needed to engage in commercial agriculture as opposed to subsistence agriculture and noted that through the NAADS programme, government will give farmers all the necessary support to ensure the success of that programme.
On the same occasion, the President pledged Shs.80 million towards the construction of the proposed shopping mall for Mbarara Archdiocese that is to be constructed in commemoration of Archbishop Bakyenga’s 25 years of service as a Bishop to the church.
On his part, Archbishop Bakyenga thanked God for the gift of life that has enabled him to render service to God’s people.
He said that he was specifically grateful to the Creator for allowing him to serve the church in the area where he was born and the people he knew better which enabled him to serve them better and communicate to them easily.
He further hailed the support himself and the Catholic Church in Uganda have received from President Museveni and the government in general, which, he noted, has eased their service to the people and uplifted the image of the Catholic Church regionally and internationally.
He appealed to Christians to continue to pray for him and the Church as he attempts to serve God’s calling with commitment in the years to come.
On behalf of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the Chairman of the Conference, the Most Rev. John Baptist Odama, who is Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese, congratulated Archbishop Bakyenga upon his 25 years of Episcopal service.
He said that the Bishops and the Catholic Church not only recognize Archbishop Bakyenga’s achievements as Prelate of Mbarara Archdiocese but also as a regional and international leader in the Catholic Church.
“You have represented us well and lived as a good example and role model to many and I appeal to the upcoming leaders to borrow a leaf from you,” Archbishop Odama said.