Last Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in 600 years to resign voluntarily, setting an example for many leaders.
Last Thursday, Pope Benedict XVI became the first Pope in 600 years to resign voluntarily, setting an example for many
New Vision has established that while Popes do not have to retire, bishops have to, at the age of 75, according to the Canon Law. Carol Kasujja brings you the Catholic bishops who have stayed beyond their legal terms.
According to section 1 of the Code of the Canon Law, a diocesan bishop must submit his resignation to the Pope, on reaching the age of 75. Bishops are encouraged to do so earlier, with a view of having the resignation take effect immediately after reaching 75.
Bishops should also offer to resign in case of long illness or any other grave problems that render them unsuited to fulfi ll the demands of their office. However, worldwide, according to gcatholic.com, a non-profit website with comprehensive information about the Catholic Church, there are 218 bishops who are above their retirement age, but have not stepped down from their dioceses.
The majority (34) are from from China, followed by Italy with 21. The US and Brazil have 12 and 10, respectively. Africa has 23 bishops serving beyond their retirement, with DR Congo leading with fi ve, followed by Uganda, which has four.
According to the Uganda Episcopal records, the active bishops beyond retirement are Bishop Egidio Nkaijanabwo of Kasese, 77, Bishop Matthias Ssekamaanya of Lugazi (who is also the president of Uganda Episcopal Conference), aged 76 and Bishop Henry Apaloryamam Ssentongo of Moroto, at 76.
The would-be fourth is Archbishop James Odongo (81), who is named among bishops who have not retired because he is assigned to oversee the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. He is referred to as the Military Ordinary of Military Ordinariate of Uganda. Thus, he is considered by Vatican to be an archbishop in service.
Bishops may also resign due to ill health that impedes them from work. The bishop of Hoima, Deogratias Muganwa Byabazaire, has been ill since November 2009. Bishop Lambert Bainomugisha, the auxiliary bishop of Mbarara archdiocese, was appointed apostolic administrator of Hoima in his stead.
However, Byabazaire has also not resigned to pave way for his replacement. The Tororo Archbishop, Denis Kiwanuka Lote, is turning 75 on March 25 and Saturday Vision failed to establish whether he had notifi ed the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam.
On notification, the nuncio is supposed to forward his resignation notice to the Vatican for the process to start. The responsibility of appointing the new bishop rests on the Pope.
In the region, Kenya also has one bishop serving beyond his retirement age, Bishop Philip Sulumeti, the Bishop of Kakamega, who is 75. Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi have none.
HOW DOES A BISHOP RETIRE?
A bishop should step down on his 75th birthday. Some do so earlier, with a view to having the resignation take effect immediately on reaching 75. However, the Pope has the option of rejecting the resignation as is the case of Bishop Nkaijanabwo of Kasese, says the secretary general of Uganda Episcopal Conference Secretariat, Msgr. John Baptist Kauta.
When the resignation is accepted, the diocese seat becomes vacant on publication of the Pope’s decision. Then the process that leads to the appointment of a successor begins without delay.
The retired bishop assumes the title of Bishop Emeritus. They can still perform the duties of a bishop, but cease to have jurisdiction powers over a diocese. Kauta was skeptical about the implication of this story and refused to cooperate.
“That story will bring bickering among priests who are interested in the Bishop’s seat,” he said. “It is better to leave everything to Rome.” He said bishops who have not yet stepped down should not be faulted because it is Rome which appoints new bishops. “The Vatican can ask a bishop to stay on as they look for a successor,” he said.
HOW ARE BISHOPS APPOINTED?
The Canon Law prefers that Catholic bishops have advanced academic degrees in various ecclesiastical disciplines, outstanding in solid faith, good morals, piety, zeal for souls and prudence. Any candidate must have a good reputation, not be bound by a marriage bond, at least be 35-years old, have been a priest for at least fi ve years and he should hold a doctorate or licentiate or at least have expertise in some sacred science.
The process for selecting bishops normally begins at the diocese and works its way through a series of consultations until it reaches Rome, the seat of the Catholic Church. It is bound by strict confidentiality and involves a number of important players, the most influential being the apostolic nuncio, the Congregation of Bishops and the pope. An apostolic nuncio is the pope’s representative in a country. The process lasts, at least, eight months to complete.
The retiring bishop submits to the archbishop of his province the names of priests he thinks would make good bishops. He also distributes their CVs. A vote is taken on about three names to recommend. It is from this point that the apostolic nuncio starts gathering facts and information about the selected candidates. The names and investigations are then forwarded to Rome.
At a private audience with the pope, the prefect of the Congregation for Bishops presents the recommendations of the Congregation to the Holy Father.
A few days later, the pope informs the Congregation of his decision. The Congregation then notifi es the nuncio, who in turn contacts the candidate and asks if he will accept. If the answer is ‘yes’, the Vatican is notifi ed and a date is set for the announcement.
BISHOP MATTHIAS SSEKAMANYA BISHOP OF LUGAZI DIOCESE
He was born on October 15, 1936 at Luteete Health Centre, Mulajje Parish in Kasana-Luwero Diocese. His parents lived at Bubuubi near Zirobwe. On December 19, 1965, he was ordained a priest at Rubaga Cathedral by Bishop John Francis Grief. He was later appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Kampala Archdiocese on March 30, 1985 and consecrated on June 2, the same year, at Namugongo, by his Eminence, Emmanuel Cardinal Nsubuga.
Later, he was appointed first Bishop of Lugazi on November 30, 1996 and took Canonical possession of Lugazi on February 23, 1997. At 76, he has not been replaced.
ARCHBISHOP DENIS KIWANUKA LOTE TORORO ARCHDIOCESE
Born on March 25, 1938 in Pallisa, Lote was ordained a priest on December 19, 1965. He was appointed the first Bishop of Kotido diocese and later archbishop of Tororo archdiocese. He turns 75 this month. Archdioceses are expected to have a Bishop Coadjutor (a bishop who assists a diocesan bishop and has the right of succession) in their final year or two before their retirement, in order to familiarise their successor with the workings of the diocese before taking over the reins.
This minimises the learning curve of a new bishop and eliminates completely the possibility of the diocese being vacant, following the older bishop’s retirement.
BISHOP EGIDIO NKAIJANABWO BISHOP OF KASESE
He was born at Rugazi in Mbarara Archdiocese on August 29, 1935. He was ordained a priest on May 28, 1961. He was appointed Bishop of Kasese on April 1, 1989 and consecrated Bishop on June 17, 1989, at Kasese. He is said to have written to the nuncio about his retirement, but the Vatican has not given an answer.
BISHOP HENRY APALORYAMAM SSENTOGO BISHOP OF MOROTO
He was born on November 30, 1936 in Villa Maria, Masaka. On December 21, 1963, he was ordained a priest, before being appointed auxiliary bishop of Masaka on December 15, 1988. After one year, he was ordained Titular Bishop of Pupiana. On March 30, 1992, he was appointed bishop of Moroto.
Uganda has four archdioceses, called ecclesiatical provinces. They are Tororo, Kampala, Gulu and Mbarara.
Tororo has Kotido Moroto, Soroti, Tororo and Jinja dioceses
Gulu comprises of Gulu, Lira, Arua and Nebbi
In Mbarara, they are Fort Portal, Hoima, Kasese, Mbarara and Kabale
Kampala has Lugazi, Luwero, Kampala, Masaka and Kiyinda- Mityana
Tired, but not retired