A legacy of martyrs
· Uganda is called to the challenge of bearing witness ·
It was with great joy and happiness that the people of Uganda received the good news that Pope Francis had scheduled a pilgrimage to Uganda, the Land of Martyrs, from 27-29 November. It is an honour for the Church in Uganda and for all people of good will to welcome the Holy Father and join him on this holy journey. On this occasion the Church in Uganda is delighted to receive the Vicar of Christ, and withgreat anticipation we are awaiting his message of peace, mercy and hope. At the numerous gatherings at the selected locations in Kampala, our capital city, the Church looks forward to the challenges, to which the Holy Father will call us. For Christ said: “You will be my witness” (Acts 1:18).
Pope Francis’ visit to Uganda is a testimony of the living and binding ministry our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted to Peter, when he said: “feed my flock.... Take care of my sheep” (Jn 21:15-16). The Church in Uganda draws her consolation from this universal mission of Peter with which, we, the Bishops and the whole community of the People of God feel strengthened in our faith and true witnesses of Christ’s light. The programme drawn up for the Holy Father’s stay in Uganda signifies the vision of his ministry as that of a “shepherd living with the odour of the sheep”.
Uganda — described by British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill, in 1907 as the ‘Pearl of Africa’ — enjoys a privileged position among African countries. It was the first country to have a large number of canonized saints and it was the first country, in 1913, to have indigenous priests, including the first indigenous bishop south of the Sahara, who was ordained in 1939.
Pope Francis is the third Supreme Pontiff to visit Uganda. In 1969, Blessed Paul VI was the first pope to visit Uganda. During his visit, he challenged the Church in Africa, saying: “You Africans must be missionaries to yourselves”. This message echoes the words of St Daniel Comboni who, on becoming the Bishop of Central Africa in 1877, visualised missions in Africa with his motto to “Save Africa with Africa”.
The Comboni missionaries working in northern Uganda, motivated by this motto, trained the local catechists Daudi Okello and Jildo Irwa who, at Paimol in the Archdiocese of Gulu, while on mission to preach the message of Jesus, were martyred in 1918. These two martyrs added another page of Christian witness to the history of our country. St John Paul II’s missionary journey to Uganda in 1993 brought consolation to a country that was experiencing war and the notorious insurgency of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Pope Francis’ visit is a moment of grace. As a developing country we are looking forward to his message of caring for our common home as described in his Encyclical Laudato Si’. All agents of evangelization look forward to receiving the Holy Father’s challenge to be messengers of joy and to radiate the same joy in the work of evangelisation as was highlighted in Evangelii Gaudium. Another theme so dear to the Church’s life and ministry is that of the family. As Christians, we appreciate the beauty of the family, and we recognize that family life as the place where we come to learn the meaning and value of human relationships. The Church in Uganda awaits Pope Francis’ invitation to uphold the traditional Christian family understanding and values as founded on the relationship between man and woman: “A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it” (CCC 2202).
Cyprian Kizito Lwanga,
Archbishop of Kampala
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 21, 2018
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