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Catholic Church Mourns Archbishop Emeritus James Odongo

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Archbishop Odongo, 89, who was also the first Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tororo died on Friday morning at Nsambya Hospital in Kampala according to Uganda Episcopal Conference.
Archbishop Emeritus of Tororo

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The Catholic Church in Uganda is mourning the death of the retired Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese, James Odongo.  Odongo has been the only living representative of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa at the Second Vatican Council in Rome which was held between the years 1962 and 1965. 

Archbishop Odongo, 89, who was also the first Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tororo died on Friday morning at Nsambya Hospital in Kampala according to Uganda Episcopal Conference.    

“The Lord has visited us again this morning with the sad news. His Grace James Odongo, the Archbishop Emeritus of Tororo has passed on this morning,” an official announcement from the Uganda Episcopal Conference reads in part.   

According to information obtained from the Uganda Episcopal Conference, the Most Reverend Odongo, a renowned theologian and Military Ordinate of Uganda, was born on March 27, 1931, at Molo village located along Tororo-Mbale road in the then Bukedi district. His father, Gabriel Omunyin, was a catechist while the mother Rosalina Nyachwo was a farm worker.   

Archbishop Odongo attended Nyangore Pre-Primary School in Tororo and later joined Nyenga and Gaba seminaries before he went to Rome for further studies in theology, where he has ordained a priest at the age of 25 years on December 22, 1956.   

When Odongo returned to in Uganda 1957, he was posted to several parishes within the then Tororo diocese until when he was elected Titular Bishop of Baana and Auxiliary Bishop of Tororo on November 25, 1964.

He was consecrated Bishop on February 16, 1965, and eventually named the ordinary of Tororo after three years. He was 33 years during his consecration and was the first Native Bishop to his people.

On 2 January 1999, Odongo became the first Archbishop of Tororo when the Holy Father erected the Ecclesiastical Province of Tororo (commonly referred to as the Eastern Ecclesiastical Province) to the rank of Metropolitan Church, the Diocese of Tororo, and assigning to it the dioceses of Jinja, Kotido, Moroto, and Soroti as suffragans.     

“Archbishop James Odongo’s contribution and service to the growing Church in Tororo and Uganda, in general, marked him to be a uniquely wise and memorable cleric – who even got the wonderful privilege of participating in the last sessions of Vatican II Ecumenical Council,” his biography on the Tororo archdiocese website reads in part. 

Archbishop Odongo by then as the Auxiliary Bishop of Tororo at the age of 34 was among the youngest Council Fathers who attended the last session which concluded the Vatican II Council Meeting; the session that was also attended by Rt. Rev. Colin Cameron Davis, Bishop Emeritus of Ngong Diocese, Kenya, who died in 2016. 

Archbishop Odongo faithfully served the Eastern Ecclesiastical Province and in particular the Diocese of Tororo until 2007, when Pope Benedict XVI accepted his retirement request having clocked the mandatory retirement age.  

When the Catechism of the Catholic Church first came out he was asked by Rome as one of the Council Fathers for any amendments. The theologian made three amendments which were inserted into the document of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which the Church uses today. 

Asked about the Vatican Council fours ago, in his own words he noted that; “the catechism of the Catholic Church is a living document which is transmitting the life of Vatican II Council even to those who never heard of it.” 

He was also the first African chairperson of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa, a position he held twice. 

Rev. Fr Kevin Musisi, the Tororo Archdiocese Vicar General, says that although the cause of the death of the Emeritus Archbishop is not yet known, he has been having hypertension and diabetes.     

Rev Fr Musisi eulogies the deceased saying that besides being the longest-serving ordinary of Tororo who steered them for 44 years, he will be remembered as a dynamic, courageous, and dedicated person who reflected an example of what all human beings should be.     

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