• Fri Aug 28 2015
  • Who are the Ugandans who will guard Pope Francis?

In November, when Pope Francis visits, one of the rare uniformed 'forces' you will see is the group called the papal knights.
Vision Reporter
Journalist @ New vision
In November, when Pope Francis visits, one of the rare uniformed 'forces' you will see is the group called the papal knights.
By Mathias Mazinga 
 
In November, when Pope Francis visits, one of the rare uniformed 'forces' you will see is the group called the papal knights.
 
Known locally among the Bantu people as abaselikare ba Paapa (soldiers of the pope), these men and women are honorary squads of the pope. They don't train in VIP protection and neither are they armed. Papal Knight is an ecclesiastical title of honour basically meant to appreciate the loyalty and exemplary services of the respective recipient Christians. 
 
According to Anthony Mateega Naakirya, the head of the laity of the Archdiocese of Kampala, the Papal Orders of Knighthood are awarded to Christians, male and females, on account of their exemplary service to the Church. They also serve as strategic incentives to inspire other Christians to emulate the loyalty and exemplary service of the respective Knights to the Catholic Church. They are awarded directly by the Pope, after the recommendation by a bishop, through the Apostolic Nuncio. And they are given the title of Chevalier. 

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Chevalier Tofiri Malokweza, one of the Papal Knights dressed by Matovu
 
The Secretary General of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Msgr. Dr. John Baptist Kauta, calls them symbolic defenders of the church and its property. 
 
"They are the symbolic army of the church. In fact if you attended a function where these Papal Knights are, you would clearly see a symbolic military spectacle that their presence creates. They appear like soldiers guarding the bishop."
There are a number of orders of Papal Knighthood, the commonest ones being the Order of St. Gregory the Great and the Order of St. Sylvester, he added.  Each diocese can choose what they want. 
 
Fr. Peter Bakka, a prominent Church scholar based at Lwaggulwe Catholic parish, Masaka diocese, says apart from conferring the title to acknowledge the Christian's loyalty and service, it is also to inspire other Christians to emulate those to whom the title is conferred. 
 
"It is like in the army when Museveni gives ranks to his soldiers," he said. "There are some services which cannot be paid with money. The Church thus gives titles of honour to recognise people." 
 
There is no major role Papal knights play except the ceremonial accompaniment of a bishop, cardinal or pope. According to Chevalier John Pool Kalungi, one of the Papal Knights appointed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012, Papal Knighthood is not an office with duties. 
 
"Ours is just a ceremonial role to be with the Archbishop at the respective church functions. During mass, we have the privilege to sit at the sanctuary. At consecration, we raise our swords, to bring out the glory and honour of the moment, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes to the altar in the form of bread and wine. We put on our regalia only if Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Lwanga, the Apostolic Nuncio or the Pope is celebrating mass."
 
He thus says he does not expect a position not far away from the altar when Pope Francis comes. 

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Chevalier Musoke
 
How knights are chosen
It is a diocesan bishop who identifies people, with the assistance of his priests and sends their names to the Papal Nuncio, who is the representative of the pope in the country. The Nuncio forwards the names to Rome for the approval of the Pope. When he is convinced by the reasons, the Pope confers a knighthood title through an appointment letter delivered to the person through the Nuncio, the bishop and the parish priest.
 
Who are the Ugandan Papal Knights?
Currently, the Catholic church in Uganda, headquartered at Nsambya, does not know how many papal knights there are in the country. Kauta, the national secretary, says a number of dioceses in Uganda had one, two or three Papal Knights at the time of independence. 
 
"But today, if I am not mistaken, Papal Knights are only in Kampala Archdiocese and Kasana-Luweero diocese. Tororo had one but he died and no other one has ever been appointed. I think the other bishops don't see the necessity to have them. It is not a dire priority; nobody should crucify the bishops for their discernment. But if any bishop feels the need to have the Papal Knights, he is entitled to that right."
 
Masaka diocese had Bernard Kakinda, one of the pioneer Ugandan Papal Knights, who died. The Archdiocese of Kampala has a good number namely Damiano Ddumba, Aloysius Mutyaba Mukiibi, Dr. Joseph Seremba, William Mubiru, Joseph Kiwanuka, John Pool, Tophir Kivumbi Malokweza and Francis Xavier Lubanga. The diocese of Kasana-Luweero also has three Papal Knights namely John Chrysostom Kaise, Peter Sserubombwe and Joseph Lwevuze.
 
Female knights are called Dames and Uganda has two; Dame Letitia Nyonyintono Kikonyogo and Dame Margaret Mary Ntege.
Pool said they did not have an association or a constitution as Ugandan Papal Knights. They also don't have identity cards.
 
Nonetheless, his colleagues chose him as a Coordinator, whose role is to keep them updated about significant events.
Can they be dismissed? Kauta says it has not happened. 
 
"A Papal Knight may be stripped of the honour due to immorality. But that is very unlikely because most of them are old enough at the time of their appointment." 
 
Mateega also says he has read the history of the Church very extensively but not encountered a case where a Papal Knight was stripped. 
"But since the award is in recognition of noble service, I am sure the Vatican reserves the right to revoke the privilege of the same award," he said. 

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Chevalier William Mubiru
 
 
The knighting
Pool said he was vested on January 1, 2013. 
"We went to the Cathedral for mass, already dressed as knights. There were no prolonged rituals done on us. The Chancellor of the Archdiocese just read our appointment letter from Rome, after which each one of us was given a certificate from the Vatican by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga."
 
Many diocese don't have
Many diocese don't have papal knights. Gulu Archdiocese is one of them. When asked why, the Gulu Archbishop, John Baptist Odama, replied: "My son, if you want to know more about Papal Knights, go and ask the Archbishop of Kampala, Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga because he has a good number of them. Yes, it is good to have Papal Knights. But for me, I don't need them at the moment."
 
Masaka Diocese also has no knights. The bishop, John Baptist Kaggwa said: "Each diocese has its way of doing things. The issue of need is important when deciding to appoint knights. True, we have not had new Papal Knights here in Masaka, over the past years. But we are considering it."

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The Archbishop Lwanga with Papal Knights: James Pool( left),  Tofiri Kivumbi Malokweza(right) and Dame Letitia Nnyonyintono Kikonyogo .
 
Papal Knights uniform
Papal Knights unleash a beautiful spectacle with their attires in black and dark-green colours. 
Pool explained that once you are knighted, you don't have to travel to Rome to be adorned or get a uniform. 
"We were given the specifications of the regalia, as required by Rome. We then went to one professional designer in Kampala, who made them in accordance to the requirements given by Rome. The uniform is a bit expensive. If I remember well, I paid sh6m for mine."
 
Knight orders
According to the Vatican's online Sources, there are five Papal Orders of Knighthood: The Supreme Order of Christ, the Order of the Golden Spur, the Order of Pius IX, the Order of St. Gregory the Great, and, the Order of Saint Sylvester.

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