Father Ubald Rugirangoga

Father Ubald Rugirangoga, photographed at the Jackson home of Katsey Long in May 2016. Ubald passed away on the evening of January 7 of complications from Covid-19. Rugirangoga was a Catholic priest well-known throughout Africa and often preached to congregations of more than 30,000 in his home country of Rwanda.

Father Ubald Rugirangoga, a Catholic priest and healer, survivor of the Rwandan genocide and a regular Jackson visitor for more than a decade, died Thursday in Salt Lake City.

He had been hospitalized since October after contracting COVID-19. He’s believed to have been exposed in September during a evangelizing trip to Wisconsin. He became sick within days after returning to Jackson.

Besides being renowned as a healer, Father Ubald was known for preaching peace and forgiveness, basing his message on his own experiences during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which intertribal strife led to some 800,000 Tutsis being slaughtered in 30 days by their Hutu neighbors. Among those people Rugirangoga forgave was the man who murdered his mother.

“How do you forgive someone who killed your mother?” asked Paul Vogelheim, a Jackson resident and friend of the priest. “It’s inhuman.”

However, Vogelheim said, Father Ubald’s message of reconciliation brought him attention bordering on adoration in his own country and eventually around the world. He taught that there could never be peace as long as people did not forgive those who had harmed them.

“When the man who killed my mother begged pardon from me, he healed me,” Ubald said in story published in the Jackson Hole News&Guide in 2017.

Arrangements are being made to return Father Ubald’s body to Rwanda, where his reputation as a spiritual leader is expected to arouse a huge and emotional welcome among the faithful.

A complete obituary will appear in Wednesday’s Jackson Hole News&Guide.

Contact Mark Huffman at 732-5907 or mark@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mark Huffman edits copy and occasionally writes some, too. He's been a journalist since newspapers had typewriters and darkrooms.

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