Catholic World News News Feature

Uganda Bishop Says Cult Leader Was Excommunicated March 22, 2000

KAMPALA, Uganda ( - A retired Ugandan bishop said on Tuesday he had excommunicated the former priest who apparently led more than 500 people in a mass murder-suicide last weekend.

Retired Bishop John Baptist Kakubi of Mbarara said he excommunicated Joseph Kibwetere, founder of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments, after the former priest claimed to be able to talk to God and refused to submit to the bishop's authority. Kibwetere is presumed to have died with his followers after they barricaded themselves in a church and set it afire after their doomsday prophecy's did not come true.

Kakubi said he never suspended the two priests, Fathers Dominic Kataribabo and Joseph Kasapuraru, who were Kibwetere's colleagues in the cult. He said he only suspended them for being disobedient to him when he was bishop. "I did not excommunicate the two priests but only suspended them because they were disobedient and refused to recognize me as the bishop of their diocese," he said.

"I was grossly disappointed to hear that Dominic Kataribabo, a man with a Doctorate in Theology, had decided to follow Kibwetere's teachings," he said.

Meanwhile, the current bishop of Mbarara said the victims of the fire should not receive funeral Masses. "No Mass will be celebrated in the affected families and churches until further communication," a three-line statement signed by Father Sebastian Tumusiime, the archbishop's personal secretary, said.

Bishop Bakyenga also endorsed a March 18 statement by Bishop Robert Gay of Kabale to all priests in the diocese that routine prayers may be said for the departed. "The normal burial should take place and where possible, a priest or a catechist should attend prayers for the departed and for his family and friends," Bishop Gay said.