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Namugongo Martyrs’ Shrine

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS - Isabelle Prondzynski

Prelate’s Greeting to Pope in Uganda, Recounting of Story of Ugandan Martyrs

“Your presence here at Munyonyo is of great significance to us Ugandans! It was here at Munyonyo that King Mwanga made the fateful decision to begin putting Christians to death”

Here is the prepared text of the address given this evening by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, to welcome Pope Francis to Munyonyo, Uganda, where he is meeting with catechists and teachers.

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Your Holiness, Distinguished guests and friends.

What a beautiful day the Lord has made for us Ugandans and Africans at large. Holy Father, on behalf of the entire Catholic Church, I warmly welcome you to Uganda, the Land of Martyrs and in particular to Munyonyo where the majority of Uganda Martyrs were sentenced to death because of their faith in Christ. You are the third Pontiff to visit our mother nation, but you are the very first Pope to step here at Munyonyo.

Your presence here at Munyonyo is of great significance to us all Ugandans! It was here at Munyonyo that King Mwanga made the fateful decision to begin putting Christians to death. The blood of Uganda martyrs was shed on this soil. It was on 26th May 1886 that the first three Christians of the main outbreak of persecution rendered their lives for Christ’s sake after the King’s decision, they were: St. Denis Ssebugwawo – Patron saint of choirs, St. Andrew Kaggwa – patron saint of catechists and teachers, St. Pontiano Ngondwe – patron saint of Policemen and Soldiers.

Having intuited the grave and imminent danger about to befall Uganda’s Christian community, at the dawn morning on 26th May 1886, Charles Lwanga secretly baptized four catechumens from here. The very day morning, King Mwanga brought his whole court before him and separated the Christians from the rest. After judgment, the future Martyrs subsequently walked staggered and were often dragged over a number of few days until majority of them finally reached the execution site, Namugongo where your Holiness will lead us in mass tomorrow. After their imprisonment and torture they were finally burned alive in Namugongo on June 3, 1886.

We are very grateful to God, who has made it possible for you to come and we are also grateful to your Holiness for having positively answered our invitation to come and crown the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs which took place on 18th October 1964 during the Second Vatican Council. May the church in Munyonyo, for which you blessed a cornerstone, be a thanksgiving monument of Uganda nation for recognizing sons of Uganda soil as saints by the Catholic Church over 50 years ago.

In addition to Catholics, also Anglicans were martyred in Uganda during the series of persecutions of the early Church. Encouraging each other, they remained firm in their love of Christ throughout. From the time they were all judged and condemned in Munyonyo, through their long walk from Munyonyo to Namugongo, until the moment they were burned alive, they remained united and steadfast in their Christian faith. The example of the martyrs compel us to seek Christian unity and brotherhood, that our hearts and voices may yearn for the day when Christians “may all be one” Jn. 17, 20.

Holy Father, your pilgrimage to Uganda is of great importance to us all and in particular to us the Catholics. It strengthens our faith and you being the Successor of Peter, it shows the Unity and Oneness of the Catholic Church all over the world.

Furthermore, I want to assure your holiness that the Catholics in Uganda are very loyal to you, the Vicar of Christ and closely follow what you as the Vicar of Christ teaches them, notwithstanding what they hear from other countries. Now, we are more than ready to listen what you are going to tell us in a way of advice, exhortation, teaching and enlightening us from our own soil and in our own context.

Since the announcement of your visit was made, we have been praying insistently for the success of your visit to us. On behalf of my fellow Ugandans, I wish you a fruitful and a successful pilgrimage to Uganda. Now allow me, Your Holiness, to invite you to address us in your capacity as the Vicar of Christ. 

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