By Robert Atuhairwe & Pascal Kwesiga
Hundreds of people lined up along Hoima-Kampala road to pay their last respects to the bishop of Hoima Catholic diocese, Deogratias Byabazaire who passed on at the weekend.
Motorists drove up to River Kafu, about 25kms outside Hoima town to receive the remains of the bishop whose death on Saturday was a blow to many people in Bunyoro for his humility, care for the marginalized and the hundreds of needy children he educated. Many expressed shock about his death saying that they had expected him to return and serve.
Boda boda riders lead the convoy of the late Hoima Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire as it arrives in Hoima from Kampala
Traffic in Hoima slowed down as long convoy of cars including the hearse snaked to the Cathedral. Huge crowds walked alongside the vehicles winding the streets to Bujumbura cathedral where the diocese’s vicar general Msgr Mathias Nyakatura celebrated a funeral mass at 6:00pm.
Women and men shed tears as they walked beside the hearse. The traffic police that guided the procession from Kafu River stopped vehicles heading to different direction at some points to allow the crowd to proceed uninterrupted.
Pupils of St.Benadator primary pay their last respects to fallen Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire at Bujumbura cathedral
Earlier the clergy including the Pope Nuncio Archbishop Michael Blume, Emmanuel Cardinal Wamala, the Kampala archbishop Dr. Cyprian Lwanga and bishops from various dioceses celebrated a funeral mass for Byabazaire at Rubaga church in Kampala. The mass was attended by hundreds of Christians.
Vice president Edward Ssekandi said “Byabazaire reached out to many lives through charity. He will be remembered for having deprived himself of earthly things in his early life and put his savings in eternity,”
The hearse containing the remains of Bishop Deogratias Byabazaire snakes along Hoima Main street
A congregation for the evangelization of the people from Vatican in a message delivered by Blume, asked God to grant Byabazaire eternal peace.
Several government and cultural institutions such as Bunyoro and Buganda kingdoms delivered condolence messages.
The first deputy Prime Minister Henry Kajura said his deceased brother (Byabazaire) lived a simple life and educated many students especially girls. “He believed that raising the standards of girls would have a ripple effect in the entire community.
By the time he died he was paying school fees for 300 girls,” he added.
Students thronged Bujumbura cathedral to pay their last respects to Bishop Byabazaire. The late was a champion of girl child education
Wamala who celebrated the mass described Byabazaire as a good shepherd who fed the hungry, innovative and caring for all people.
“He was zealous about education especially the girl child education. He had totally surrendered himself to God.
Lwanga, who delivered a condolence message on behalf of the church, said “We have lost a gallant of Uganda, a very good bishop and a successor of the apostles.”
He added “Byabazaire had a large heart in which all of us fitted, he lived for his flock and we thank God for the life he gave him. He gave himself entirely and we shall miss his humble voice and smile that greeted whoever met him.”
Byabazaire, the archbishop said will be remembered for his unweathering love for education, poverty alleviation efforts, care for the marginalized adding “After expanding the church and building schools, Byabazaire was planning a University for Bunyoro before he fell sick.”
The apostolic administrator of Hoima diocese, Bishop Lambert Bainomugisha said;
“Byabazaire had two aspects that distinguished his service; service to God and service to humanity. His shoes are too big to fit in, he died at the altar of God and humanity.”