Pope Francis concluded the day in Uganda by giving an off-the-cuff address to the nation’s priests and religious, in which he said that they couldn’t piggy-back on the glories of the past, but had to themselves construct the glory of the future.
The Pope is in the middle of his three-nation, six-day visit to Africa, with his departure for Central African Republic scheduled for tomorrow and his return to Rome set for Monday.
The Holy Father spoke this evening to Uganda’s priests and religious, referencing especially the legacy of the Ugandan martyrs, killed in the late 19th century, and still the object of fervent veneration. During the Feast of the Ugandan Martyrs, half a million people descend on Namugongo.
The Pope centered his reflection on three words or concepts — memory, fidelity and prayer. He has on several other occasions urged the faithful to keep alive the memory of God’s action in their lives, and again emphasized this point today.
“The Church in Uganda can never become accustomed to the distant memory of its martyrs,” he said. “Martyr means witness. The Church in Uganda, to be faithful to this memory, must continue to be a witness. It can’t live ‘piggy-backing.’ The glories of the past were the beginning but you have to make the glory of the future. And this is the task that the Church gives to you. Be witnesses, as the martyrs who gave their lives for the Gospel were witnesses.”
The Pope said his second “word” for the priests and religious is fidelity.
“Fidelity to memory. Fidelity to one’s vocation. Fidelity to apostolic zeal. Fidelity means to follow the way of holiness. Fidelity means to do what the witnesses of the past did: to be missionaries.”
“Uganda was watered with the blood of martyrs, of witnesses,” the Holy Father said. “Today it is necessary to continue watering it and for this, new challenges, new testimonies, new missions.”
The Bishop of Rome said that if the Ugandan faithful didn’t follow i this spirit, they would “lose the great richness that you have.”
“And the ‘pearl of Africa’ will end up being on display in a museum. Because the devil attacks like that — little by little.”
Finally, the Pontiff emphasized the importance of prayer, and in this regard, the need to be transparent.
Religious can’t live a double life, he said, encouraging them to take their sin to confession.
“Don’t keep hidden what God doesn’t want. Don’t keep a lack of fidelity hidden away. Don’t shut memory up in a closet,” he said.
The Pope also had a particular invitation for priests. Noting that some Ugandan dioceses might have numerous clergy, while others don’t have enough, he recommended that those who are in dioceses with many priests offer themselves to their bishops to be sent to mission dioceses.
It’s not easy, he acknowledged, but with this spirit, “Uganda will continue to be missionary.”
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