Correct “erroneous ways of worship” in South Africa, Uganda-born Bishop Told at Ordination

The newly ordained Bishop of South Africa's Aliwal North Diocese, Ugandan-born Bishop Joseph Kizito, blessing the people of God who witnessed his Episcopal ordination at Sauer Park Stadium, Aliwal North on February 15, 2020.
Credit: Fr. Paul Tatu/The Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference (SACBC)

At the Episcopal ordination of the Ugandan-born Monsignor Joseph Kizito, as Bishop of South Africa’s diocese of Aliwal North Saturday, February 15, being attentive to “erroneous ways of worship” in modern-day South Africa was a key highlight, the newly ordained Bishop advised to seek ways to address “weak worship” in his new Ecclesiastical territory.

Appointed by Pope Francis last November as the Bishop of South Africa’s Aliwal North diocese, which is part of South Africa’s Ecclesiastical province of Eastern Cape, the Episcopal ordination of Mons. Kizito took place at Sauer Park Stadium, Aliwal North in a well-attended and colourful celebration.

Bishop Stephen Brislin of South Africa’s Cape Town Diocese presided over the ordination, which was witnessed by 23 Catholic Prelates including three Bishops from Uganda and two from Lesotho.

The Prelates from Uganda included the Chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC) Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa of Kiyinda-Mityana diocese, the Archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, and Bishop Serverus Jjumba of Masaka diocese. Some religious and laity accompanied the Ugandan Prelates.

Bishop Sithembele Anton Sipuka of South Africa's Umtata Diocese was the homilist at the well-attended event.

“Dear Mgrs. Kizito, having taken the commitment yesterday to teach, sanctify and govern the people of God and to guard against erroneous ways of worshiping in Aliwal North Diocese, we are sure that you will not be setting up golden calves in Aliwal North and seduce people to worship them as Jeroboam did in Northern Israel,” Bishop said in his homily, referencing the first reading in which King Jeroboam spearheaded the fashioning of two golden calves that saw the people of God eventually worship “an image of metal, exchanging the God who was their glory for the image of a bull that eats grass.”

“But you can be sure that you will find existing erroneous ways of worship, which as a bishop you will have to correct,” Bishop Sipuka added and explained, “First of all, you will find that the worship of God is weak, and in some situations nonexistent because the worship of God today competes with the worship of selling and buying. People are not satisfied to buy and sell from Monday to Saturday morning, they also want to do the buying and selling on Sundays as well, so that Sundays in terms of business are just like any day.”

“If the Israelites were fascinated by the metallic golden calf, today we are also fascinated by metallic things, cars, cell phones, computers, glittering houses, and we measure our worth with these things, and we do our best to obtain the latest of them and in abundance. Perhaps what could redeem us is that some of us pray from shiny products,” the Local Ordinary of South Africa’s Umtata diocese who is also the First Vice President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) said.

The newly ordained Bishop Kizito was incardinated in Aliwal North at his diaconate ordination and later ordained priest in September 1997.

Born in Wakaliga within the Archdiocese of Kampala in Uganda, Bishop Kizito had his basic education in his ancestral land of Uganda. While in primary school at Christian Brothers’ School and Achilet Banakaloli Brothers’ School, he enrolled as an altar server and became a youth leader at St. Mary’s Lubaga Cathedral parish.

“After a year of being in the Cathedral he joined the Order of the Servants of Mary at (OSM) in Kisonga and one year later he went to join St Augustine Major Seminary Roma Lesotho where he obtained his Cum laude Probatus degree in Philosophy,” Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) reported with regard to the newly ordained Bishop.

The Independent of Uganda has reported that news of Mons. Kizito’s appointment reached his kinspersons, jubilation filled his native home of Wakaliga in the suburbs of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, with members of his family, neighbors and friends gathering at his ancestral home to sing songs of praise.

Mons. Kizito’s mother, Christine Babirye Nsubuga who, according to sources from South Africa was in South Africa to witness the episcopal ordination of her son, had shed tears of joy when she got the news of Mons. Kizito’s appointment as Bishop. She felt blessed and humbled for being alive to receive the news of her son’s elevation to the episcopacy.

In his homily during the ordination of Mons. Kizito, the 59-year-old Bishop of South Africa’s Umtata diocese continued explaining the challenge of “weak worship” that the newly ordained Bishop Kizito will need to address saying, “You will notice other practices that diminish the worship of God on Sunday like learners who have to go school on Sundays, and young people who choose to have soccer competition games on Sundays instead of going to Church.”

“You will find in fact that sport has dethroned God. People are more in stadiums on Sundays and spending many hours in front of DSTV super sport flipping channels for the latest game than being with God,” Bishop Sipuka lamented and advised the Ugandan-born Bishop, “You will find yourself having to go back to this basic commandment of reminding the people entrusted to you today to keep the Sabbath Holy.”

In his homily, Bishop Sipuka brought to the awareness of the new Bishop of Aliwal North about the “syncretism or confused merging of traditions of worship from all the other ecclesial communities.”

“Catholics are not Lutherans, Anglicans are not Methodist, Presbyterians are not Zionist, and so on. Yet sometimes during worship in the Catholic Church you wonder if you are in the Catholic Church or in any of the other ecclesial communities that I have mentioned,” Bishop Sipuka said.

In the considered opinion of Bishop Sipuka, “Modifications of worship and doctrine between the Catholic Church and other ecclesial communities if they are to be meaningful must be based on well thought out engagements, as is the case with the doctrine of justification for example, between the Lutheran and Catholics and not on emotional and superficial grounds.”

Bishop Sipuka reached out to the new Bishop on “the balance between an intellectual and sentimental approach to worship” and explained, “Many people leave the Catholic Church because it is cold, individualistic, mechanistic, and intellectual and does not respond to the human and spiritual needs of its members.”

He added, “As a Catholic Church, we have a lot to learn from other ecclesial communities in terms of creating a sense of communion and belonging and in terms of making the faith respond to the concerns and existential needs of sickness and material poverty of our people. Yet on the other hand, it would be careless and irresponsible of us to let go of the strength of our liturgy and doctrine that put emphasis on the cross and sacrifice.”

Explaining how “the worship of wealth and money leads to doom because the more you get of it, the more you realize how poor you are,” Bishop Sipuka emphasized the need to foster the Catholic tradition that is rooted in the person of Jesus and his teaching.

“While we need to learn from other ecclesial communities that God wants us to be happy, to be successful and to be well,” the South African Prelate noted, “we need to share with them also from our Catholic tradition our appreciation of Jesus’ call to enter by the narrow gate, to take up our cross and follow Jesus daily as the coming Lenten period reminds us and that resurrection is preceded by the passion, that man does not live on bread alone and that happiness on this earth does not constitute the fullness of our happiness because our complete happiness lies in the future with God for which we must prepare ourselves.”

Bishop Sipuka also asked the new Bishop to pay attention to the “true nature” of worship as he takes up the role of shepherding the people of God in Aliwal North diocese.

“Often one hears a comment from people when they come from Church, “it was nice”, but the remaining question is “was it a worship?”, Bishop Sipuka questioned.

He explained and probed, “After worship, the question is, “have I worshiped God, am I transformed by the worship, am I more detached from my sins through worship, am I more eager in my missionary work because of worship or the consideration is that was nice? Does worship minimize or eliminate my sin of pride, envy, meanness, indifference, injustice and anything else that blinds me from the divine truth and mercy that Christ is calling us to have?”

“Again here, the temptation of uncritical imitation of other ecclesial ways of worshipping can make us lose of our own understanding of worship as Catholics,” Bishop Sipuka noted and recommended, “Your task as bishop Mgrs. Kizito is to give guidance about the Catholic understanding of worship, which includes dignity, silence, proper spiritual preparation, appropriate postures and gestures fitting signs and symbols, conversion and of course joyful songs as well.”

“I do not want to frighten you, but today’s first reading finishes by saying that because Jeroboam conducted himself in such a careless way about worship, this caused the ruin of his house and extinction from face of the earth,” Bishop Sipuka addressed himself to the new Bishop of Aliwal diocese.

“As you lead the people being entrusted to you today as their bishop, may worship in this diocese be genuine and lead to an encounter with true God and not an encounter with God in our own image,” the South African Prelate, a member of SECAM Standing Committee, concluded.


ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa
[email protected]