By Paschal Norbert
BUWAMA, AUGUST 15, 2023 (CISA) – Most Rev. Paul Ssemogerere, the archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Kampala has caused quite a stir among the faithful in Uganda by declaring that God does not like the poor and the poor will not go to heaven in a statement made on August 13, 2023.
The archbishop who was speaking during the Priestly Golden Jubilee and Episcopal consecration of retired papal diplomat, Archbishop Augustine Kasujja at Mitala Maria Parish in Buwama said, “God is not taking you to heaven if you are poor. You are not going.”
“So, do not sit there and assume that the poor are the ones going to heaven, not at all,” said Archbishop Ssemogerere.
The prelate who has been praised in the past for defending the rights of the poor by constantly denouncing the injustice and oppression in Uganda, while vainly urging the people to fight poverty also said the teachings of the Gospel on the poor have always been misinterpreted, adding that he will be at the door of heaven pointing out who should or should not enter.
“I will be at the entrance to stop the poor. We always misinterpret the Gospel. Being poor should not be misinterpreted to mean to be without money,” he said and loosely translated from Luganda.
The archbishop avowed in a controversial remark that God will question the poor for being poor.
“God will say to you, ‘I gave you eyes and the brains; I gave you hands and I gave you health and yet you died poor? He will say go to hell!”
His statements at the celebration attended by scores of bishops, clergy and religious sisters and hundreds of faithful including the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, Archbishop Luigi Bianco, has divided the faithful in Uganda with some saying his sentiments are contradictory to the Holy scriptures and teachings of the Catholic Church.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2444), “The Church’s love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition.” This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor. Love for the poor is even one of the motives for the duty of working so as to “be able to give to those in need.” It extends not only to material poverty but also to the many forms of cultural and religious poverty.”
“In its various forms – material deprivation, unjust oppression, physical and psychological illness and death – human misery is the obvious sign of the inherited condition of frailty and need for salvation in which man finds himself as a consequence of original sin. This misery elicited the compassion of Christ the Savior, who willingly took it upon himself and identified himself with the least of his brethren. Hence, those who are oppressed by poverty are the object of a preferential love on the part of the Church which, since her origin and in spite of the failings of many of her members, has not ceased to work for their relief, defense, and liberation through numerous works of charity which remain indispensable always and everywhere,” Catechism of the Catholic Church (2448).
The Catholic Social Teaching on poverty, an option for the poor, and the common good and also in the gospel of Mathew (Mt 25:31-46) implores the faithful to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (201) cautions that “No one must say that they cannot be close to the poor because their own lifestyle demands more attention to other areas,” adding that “This is an excuse commonly heard in academic, business or professional, and even ecclesial circles.”
He says in (203) that the dignity of each human person and the pursuit of the common good are concerns which ought to shape all economic policies.
At the time of publishing this story, our efforts to contact Archbishop Paul Ssemogere through the Archdiocese of Kampala Social Communications Commission for clarifications on his controversial statements had borne no fruit.