[ACNS] Pope Francis will visit the shrine to the Anglican Martyrs in Namugongo on Saturday during a visit to Uganda and Kenya, before visiting the Roman Catholic shrine where he will celebrate Mass. Some 23 Anglican and 22 Roman Catholic converts to Christianity were brutally executed November 1885 and January 1887 on the orders of King Mwanga II of Buganda.
Pope Francis’ visit marks 50 years since the Catholic martyrs were canonised by Pope Paul VI.
“The site marks the spot where the first seeds of Christianity in Uganda, and probably in east Africa, were planted,” Ezekiel Lujalwasi, vice chairman of the Namugongo Museum Development Committee told ACNS. After killing the Christians the outraged community forced Mwanga into exile, effectively ending his brutal regime, Lujalwasi said.
“By 1910, churches, schools and hospitals built by Christians flourished in Uganda. So, I am happy and pleased and accepted Jesus as my personal Lord and saviour because of that. These young men did not abandon Christianity.”
Plans to modernise the site were drawn up in 2013 and work was well underway by the time the Pope’s visit was planned. The Ugandan government helped to speed up the work so that it was completed in time for this weekend’s visit.
Renovations work at the Anglican Shrine to the Uganda Martyrs in Namugongo. Photocredit: Hannington Sebuliba
Mr Lujalwasi said he was excited about welcoming the head of “our brothers” church; and for the many visitors that the Papal Visit will encourage to the Anglican Shrine as pictures of the Papal Visit are shown throughout the world.
“I am coming as a minister of the Gospel, to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ and his message of reconciliation, forgiveness and peace,” Pope Francis said in a press statement issued ahead of the visit.
“My visit is meant to confirm the Catholic community in its worship of God and its witness to the Gospel, which teaches the dignity of every man and woman, and commands us to open our hearts to others, especially the poor and those in need.
“At the same time I wish to encounter all the people of Kenya and Uganda, and to offer everyone a word of encouragement. We are living at a time when religious believers, and persons of good will everywhere, are called to foster mutual understanding and respect, and to support each other as members of our one human family.
“For all of us are God’s children. A highlight of my visit will be my meetings with young people, who are your greatest resource and our most promising hope for a future of solidarity, peace and progress.”
The Namugongo Museum Development Committee are looking to further develop the Anglican Shrine by building guest houses, a library, conference rooms and a bigger museum. The plans will cost in excess of 36 billion Ugandan Shillings (approximately £7.1 million GBP).