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My Tenure Was Very Challenging-Archbishop Odama

Archbishop Emeritus John Baptist Odama

By Agency

Archbishop Emeritus John Baptist Odama has for the first time recounted his experience as the Gulu Archdiocese Archbishop describing it as the most challenging experience he had to endure.

Odama was appointed as the first Archbishop of Gulu on January 2, 1999, after serving as the first Bishop of Nebbi Diocese from February 23, 1996. He, however, retired on March 22, 2024, after clocking the 75-year age limit in 2022 in line with the Code of Canon Law 401 section 1.

His Holiness Pope Francis Appointed the Most Rev. Raphael P’mony Wokorach as the new metropolitan Archbishop of Gulu as Odam’s replacement.

Speaking to journalists at his residence in Gulu City, Archbishop Emeritus Odama said while he had a wonderful and very peaceful experience in the Nebbi diocese, the situation in Gulu was different and insecure.

According to Odama, after coming to Gulu Archdiocese, he found a very challenging situation where the environment was insecure to do apostolate.

At the time, the Acholi Sub-region was at the height of an insurgence orchestrated by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels led by elusive leader Joseph Kony that saw about 1.5 million people displaced from their homes, thousands kidnapped, and hundreds of others killed.

The 77-year-old prelate described coming to Gulu as if he had entered into the “mouth of a lion”.

Archbishop Emeritus Odama says the suffering of the children on the streets of Gulu town caught their attention as religious leaders and created an urge for them to stand in solidarity with the children.

In July 2003, Odama, accompanied by the former Northern Uganda Diocese Bishop Nelson Onono Onweng, and Retired Kitgum Diocese Bishop Macleod Baker Ochola spent four nights sleeping with thousands of displaced children at Gulu Bus Park. Their move was to drum international attention and support for the night-communicating children affected by the bloody LRA conflicts in the region.

As the conflict went on at the time, Odama noted that religious leaders under the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative (ARLPI) an interfaith-based organization, commenced the process of bringing both the government and the LRA rebels to a round table for peaceful conflict resolution.

Archbishop Emeritus Odama also noted that while they managed to meet with Joseph Kony during peace talks, he had personally been stopped twice not to take the journey for his safety.

He said despite the challenging times, he is happy to have fulfilled the commitment he made to work for peace with everyone after being appointed as the first metropolitan Archbishop of Gulu.

Sheikh Musa Khalil, the Regional Assistant to the Mufti of Uganda also the Vice Chairperson ARLPI said Archbishop Emeritus Odama showed courage in pursuit of peace.

“When he (Odama)came to Gulu, he joined the team of Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative that had been started by Archbishop Emeritus Martin Luluga with strength. He worked tirelessly in pursuit of peace together and achieved it,” said Sheikh Khalil.

Sheikh Musa Khalil, the Regional Assistant to the Mufti of Uganda also the Vice Chairperson ARLPI

He noted that the people in the Acholi Sub-region won’t forget his commendable work even when he isn’t managing the archdiocese.

Odama who is currently the apostolic administrator of the Gulu Archdiocese pending the installation of Archbishop Wokorach has chosen to spend his retirement at the Gulu Archdiocese. He will be celebrating his 50th priesthood anniversary in December this year.

Rt Rev Raphael P’mony Wokorach, the Archbishop of Gulu Archdiocese.(courtesy photo)

The installation of Archbishop Wokorach and the imposition of the Pallium on him has since been set for July 12 this year at St Joseph’s Cathedral in Gulu City. The Central Organizing Committee for his installation is however seeking 108.3 million shillings to facilitate the ceremony which is expected to attract some 5,000 people.

Odama was born on June 29, 1947. He was ordained as a priest on December 14, 1974, and later appointed as the Bishop of Nebbi Diocese on February 23, 1996.

On May 26, 1996, Odama was ordained as the Bishop of Nebbi Diocese and later appointed as the first metropolitan Archbishop of Gulu on January 2, 1999, until his retirement on March 22, 2024

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