Vatican City, 28 November 2015 (VIS) – Following his encounter with the leaders of Uganda, the Pope travelled 38 kilometres by car from Entebbe to Munyonyo, the place where King Mwanga II (1884-1903) chose to exterminate the Christians of Uganda and where in May 1886 the first four martyrs were killed, including St. Andrew Kaggwa, patron of Ugandan catechists. Every year catechists gather in the area of the shrine of Munyonyo, now entrusted to the Conventual Franciscans, where a new Church able to hold a thousand people is being built. Among the catechists attending the meeting with the Holy Father there was also a representation of teachers from the Uganda National Council of Laity, as laypeople have played, and continue to play, a very important role in the evangelisation of the country.
Upon arrival, the Pope was received by the superior of the Franciscans and by Archbishiop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala, who accompanied him to the churchyard where he planted and watered a tree, along with the archbishop and leaders of the Orthodox and Protestant confessions to underline the ecumenical aspect of the Ugandan martyrs. Indeed, dozens of Anglicans were killed during the reign of King Mwanga II, alongside twenty-two of his servants, pages and functionaries who were converted to Catholicism by the missionaries of Africa.
After blessing the new statue of St. Andrew Kaggwa, located in the place of his martyrdom, the Pope addressed the catechists, first thanking them for their sacrifices in fulfilling their mission. “You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith, and you bring the joy and hope of eternal life to all”, he said. “Thank you for your dedication, your example, your closeness to God’s people in their daily lives, and all the many ways you plant and nurture the seeds of faith throughout this vast land. Thank you especially for teaching our children and young people how to pray”.
“I know that your work, although rewarding, is not easy. So I encourage you to persevere, and I ask your bishops and priests to support you with a doctrinal, spiritual and pastoral formation capable of making you ever more effective in your outreach. Even when the task seems too much, the resources too few, the obstacles too great, it should never be forgotten that yours is a holy work. The Holy Spirit is present wherever the name of Christ is proclaimed. He is in our midst whenever we lift up our hearts and minds to God in prayer. He will give you the light and strength you need! The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness. Your example should speak to everyone of the beauty of prayer, the power of mercy and forgiveness, the joy of sharing in the Eucharist with all our brothers and sisters”.
“The Christian community in Uganda grew strong through the witness of the martyrs”, he continued. “They testified to the truth which sets men free; they were willing to shed their blood to be faithful to what they knew was good and beautiful and true. We stand here today in Munyonyo at the place where King Mwanga determined to wipe out the followers of Christ. He failed in this, just as King Herod failed to kill Jesus. The light shone in the darkness, and the darkness could not overcome it. After seeing the fearless testimony of Saint Andrew Kaggwa and his companions, Christians in Uganda became even more convinced of Christ’s promises”.
“May Saint Andrew, your patron, and all the Ugandan catechist martyrs, obtain for you the grace to be wise teachers, men and women whose every word is filled with grace, convincing witnesses to the splendour of God’s truth and the joy of the Gospel”, the Pontiff concluded. “Go forth without fear to every town and village in this country, to spread the good seed of God’s word, and trust in his promise that you will come back rejoicing, with sheaves full from the harvest. Omukama Abawe Omukisa! God bless you!”.
Yesterday evening in the nunciature of Kampala Pope Francis received the president of South Sudan, Salva Kiir. The director of the Holy See Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., underlined that the audience represented a “special gesture” demonstrating the attention with which the Pope follows the troubled events in this country, the youngest in Africa (independent since July 2011), and whose founders included the Catholic bishop Cesare Mazzolari, who died shortly after its birth. South Sudan has not yet known peace, although the ideals that inspired its independence included peacemaking between ethnic groups and with Sudan.