The Uganda Orthodox Church announced on Sunday that Archbishop Jonah Lwanga passed away at an Athens hospital where he was receiving treatment.
No details were released on the cause of his death. Jonah Lwanga was the spiritual leader of more than the 500,000 Ugandans who are Greek Orthodox Christians.
“Our spiritual Father is gone to meet the Lord,” the Orthodox Church in Uganda said in a statement on Sunday.
The Church early Sunday held a virtual prayer, also informing congregants that His Eminence Lwanga was hospitalized.
Lwanga was born on July 18, 1945 in the village Ddegeya, just one year before the religion was recognized by the government despite having been established in the early 1900s.
His see was in Kampala, with jurisdiction over all Uganda. His bishopric, about 60,000 people, was founded in the 1930s.
Lwanga’s grandfather, Obadiah Basajjakitalo, was one of the two initial 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 earned a degree in Theology and Philosophy from the University of Athens. In 1979−1981 he served as 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 Uganda.
Jonah Lwanga: We are all Greeks
He proudly mentioned that his Church in Central Africa, under the Eastern Orthodox Church of Alexandria, celebrated a century of important work in the country.
“We celebrate the centenary of Greek Orthodoxy in Uganda. Starting in 1919, and with God’s help, we managed to convince many native Ugandans that there is a different faith called Orthodoxy,” the Metropolitan related in a 2019 documentary made by Greek Reporter.
The Church has grown exponentially over the last century in this verdant sub-Saharan country. Today, “the clergy consists of about 80 priests, 105 Orthodox communities, schools, and a hospital,” he stated with pride.
The Church’s schools are administered by church management but they all follow the Ugandan educational system. Many Orthodox students who have been sponsored through the Orthodox Church usually return to teach in Church schools.
“The schoolchildren know about Orthodoxy, that’s why they come to be taught at our schools, where they also have the opportunity to learn Greek,” Jonah tells the Greek Reporter.
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 there did not take root through proselytism or through the missionary propagation of faith from the outside. It began instead from indigenous Ugandans themselves, including Jonah’s grandfather Obadia Basajjakitalo, who was a founding member of the Orthodox Church in Uganda.
“The natives read books on the history of Christianity and found out that Catholics and Protestants are in opposition to each other in the way unsuitable for true Christians. They began to study thoroughly the Bible hoping to find answers to their questions.
“Once, one of them, an Anglican follower Rebuen Mukasa, encountered in a dictionary the word ‘Orthodoxy’ and became interested in its meaning. It was called a ‘true Church, Mother Church’ there. He showed this to his friends and began to seek for further information on Orthodoxy,” Jonah explains.