, UGANDA, Nov 28 – Francis on Friday became the third Pope to visit Uganda, but is the first Pontiff to set foot in Munyonyo, where majority of Uganda’s Martyrs were sentenced to death because of their faith.
Saint Denis Ssebugwawo, St Andrew Kaggwa and St Pontiano Ngondwe shed blood on Ugandan soil on May 26th 1886 following persecutions by King Mwanga.
The Pope’s presence on Friday in Munyonyo was significant, since it marks the Golden Jubilee celebrations since the canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs.
“They bear witness to the guiding principles expressed in Uganda’s motto – For God and My Country. They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country,” Pope Francis said on arrival in Uganda.
He pointed out that the Martyrs remind all that despite different beliefs and convictions, we all seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation, to respect, protect and help one another as members of one human family.
Small candles were lit and distributed to those in attendance as Pope Francis joined faithful at Munyonyo, as the country marked the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs by his predecessor Pope John Paul VI.
The Martyrs – both Catholic and Anglican – Pope Francis said, are true national heroes.
The candles were a recollection of how the Holy Spirit came in baptism. Some of those baptisms took place in Munyonyo, early in the morning hours the very day they were sentenced to death.
Small saplings were placed near the Martyrdom location which his Holiness watered with representatives of other Christian denominations. The trees will later be distributed to various representatives of different denominations and planted at their churches as a lasting sign of the unity of the Martyrs.
At a meeting attended by President Yoweri Museveni at State House soon after arrival, Pope Francis reminded leaders that they were charged with ensuring good governance, integral human development, a broad participation in national life as well as a wise and just distribution of resources.
“My visit is also meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole, its promise, it’s hopes, it’s struggles and its achievements. The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope.”
He noted that Uganda had shown outstanding concern for refugees and enabling them to rebuild their lives. “Our world, caught up in wars, violence, and various forms of injustice, is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples. How we deal with them is a test of our humanity, our respect for human dignity and above all our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need.”
Like in Kenya, Pope Francis said he looked forward to meeting with young people in Uganda.
“It is important they be given hope, opportunities, for education and gainful employment and above all an opportunity to share fully in life.”
He said despite the fact that that world is growing closer, “we see with concern the globalization of a “throwaway culture” which blinds people to spiritual values, hardens our hearts before the needs of the poor.”
The 78 year-old Pontiff Pope arrived in Entebbe on Friday afternoon from Nairobi at the start of the second leg of his three-nation Africa visit.
He was received by President Museveni and given a 21-gun salute before being entertained by traditional dancers.
Crowds lined up on the streets stretching several kilometres and waved as he was driven by in a black hatchback KIA Soul, by far overshadowing the modest Honda he used in Kenya.
Pope Francis, who started his day early in Kenya, was still at Munyonyo as night fell, as thousands cheered him on.
As he wrapped up his Kenyan visit, Pope Francis hit hard at officials over corruption, warning that graft “is something that eats (you) inside.”