Uganda: Priest-Politician Relieved of Pastoral Duties

Kampala, Uganda - A Catholic priest who joined politics and was recently appointed to the cabinet by President Yoweri Museveni has been suspended from pastoral duties.

Fr. Simon Lokodo of Dodoth in Karamoja was last month appointed Minister of State for Industry. The chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, Bishop Mathias Sekamanya, said in a statement on Saturday that the priest was suspended by his bishop on October 16, 2006 following his decision to join politics.

"When he refused to withdraw from the race, his bishop suspended him. He was prohibited from exercising priestly functions like saying mass and administering sacraments," Bishop Sekamanya said, according to the state-owned New Vision daily.

The suspension was based on the Church law, which forbids priests to assume public office whenever it means sharing in the exercise of civil power.

However, Fr Lokodo said he was never consulted before a decision to suspend him was taken. "I have been carrying out duties of a priest and as a politician. Nobody has communicated to me that I was suspended. In fact, I have just heard from you that I was suspended," the minister told the newspaper.