The Ugandan Orthodox Church announced on Sunday that Archbishop Jonah Lwanga has died in an Athens hospital where he was being treated.
No details have been released on the cause of his death. Jonah Lwanga was the spiritual leader of over 500,000 Ugandan Greek Orthodox Christians.
“Our spiritual Father has gone to meet the Lord,” said the Orthodox Church in Uganda in a report on Sunday.
The church held a virtual prayer on Sunday morning, also informing the faithful that His Eminence Lwanga was hospitalized.
Lwanga was born on July 18, 1945 in the village of Ddegeya, just a year before the religion was recognized by the government although it was established in the early 1900s.
Its headquarters were in Kampala, with jurisdiction over all of Uganda. Its bishopric, of around 60,000 people, was founded in the 1930s.
Lwanga’s grandfather, Obadiah Basajjakitalo, was one of the first two leaders of the Orthodox Church in Uganda, along with Ruben Spartas Mukasa.
He completed his general education in Bulemezi and Kyaddondo, Uganda (1952-1964).
In 1964-1968, he studied at the Ecclesiastical School of Crete. In 1968-1978 he obtained a degree in theology and philosophy from the University of Athens. In 1979-1981, he was secretary of the Orthodox mission in Uganda.
On May 1, 1981 he was ordained a deacon, in 1982 he was ordained a priest.
On January 27, 1992, he was ordained vicar bishop of Bukoba.
On May 12, 1997, he was elected by the Holy Synod as Metropolitan of Kampala and all of Uganda.
Jonah Lwanga: We are all Greek
“We are Greek because we were educated in Greece,” said Lwanga, as Metropolitan of Kampala and all of Uganda, in 2019, addressing the Greek journalistscored by Anastasios Papapostolou.
He proudly mentioned that his Church in Central Africa, under the aegis of the Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria, celebrated a century of important work in the country.
âWe are celebrating the centenary of Greek Orthodoxy in Uganda. From 1919, and with God’s help, we managed to convince many indigenous Ugandans that there is a different faith called Orthodoxy, âthe Metropolitan recounted in a 2019 documentary produced by Greek journalist.
The Church has grown exponentially over the past century in this leafy sub-Saharan country. Today, âthe clergy consists of around 80 priests, 105 Orthodox communities, schools and a hospital,â he said proudly.
Church schools are administered by the Church leadership, but they all follow the Ugandan education system. Many Orthodox students who have been sponsored by the Orthodox Church generally return to teach in Church schools.
“Schoolchildren know orthodoxy, which is why they come to be taught in our schools, where they also have the opportunity to learn Greek”, explains Jonah at Greek journalist.
Uganda is one of the first countries south of the Sahara where Eastern Orthodox Christian communities began to form.
Unlike most African Christian communities, Orthodoxy did not take root there through proselytism or the missionary propagation of the faith from outside. Rather, it started with indigenous Ugandans themselves, including Jonah’s grandfather, Obadia Basajjakitalo, who was a founding member of the Orthodox Church in Uganda.
âThe natives have read books on the history of Christianity and have found that Catholics and Protestants oppose each other in a way that does not suit true Christians. They began to study the Bible thoroughly in the hopes of finding answers to their questions.
âOne of them, an Anglican follower Rebuen Mukasa, once encountered the word ‘Orthodoxy’ in a dictionary and became interested in its meaning. It was called there a “true Church, Mother Church”. He showed it to his friends and started looking for more information about Orthodoxy, âsays Jonah.