Karibu! – and welcome to East Africa! – Pope Francis
The Pope has landed in East Africa!
UPDATE: this blog was written when the Pope touched down in East Africa – scroll down to the bottom to see how close we got to him…
Today Pope Francis is in Kenya, and tomorrow Friday 27th November, Uganda will welcome Pope Francis, here to celebrate 50 years of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs, a group of young Catholic, Protestant and – now it is believed – Muslim men who were killed in 1886.
Pope in Uganda. A few facts that make Pope Francis a man worth listening to:
- – Pope Francis is the first Pope to be born outside Europe since Pope Gregory, a Syrian, who was appointed in 731.
- – He is a man of simple tastes who shuns limousines for regular saloon cars
- – When asked about the status of gay people in the clergy, his response has been a tolerant “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and he has his good will, who am I to judge?”
- – Apparently Pope Francis doesn’t like going to the historical papal home of Rome as it represents “the heart of everything he believed the Church should not be: luxury, ostentation, hypocrisy, bureaucracy.”
I look forward to hearing what Pope Francis has to say to Ugandans.
This lapsed Catholic never quite made it to First Communion but I have huge respect for a man who seems so dignified, pragmatic and approachable. Not only does he tolerate simplicity, he seeks it out. I wish those vulgar and ostentatious American preachers that are broadcast on Ugandan TV every Sunday could have one tenth of Pope Francis’ humility.
On his two day stay in Uganda, his programme will include a two-hour mass at Namugongo, scene of the killing of the Martyrs.
Here is a copy of the full programme for the Pope in Uganda visit and the official press release about the Pope’s Uganda visit.
On June 3 1886, the day many Christians were burnt to death at Namuwongo, Father Simeon Lourdel, Missionary of Africa wrote this letter . “Some twenty of our best and most influential young men who are learning the Catechism have just been either burnt at the stake or slaughtered and their bodies cut into pieces on the grounds that they deserve death for following the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Others have been odiously mutilated or savagely beaten with sticks. A certain number of them are still in prison and are everyday subjected to refined tortures by cruel executioners who have a gift for inventing new torments.”
Opinions vary as to exactly why these young men were ordered to be killed. It seems their crime was having the strength to stand up for themselves, bolstered by their new-found religious beliefs. Christianity represented a threat to the prevailing system: it forbade polygamist marriage, it promoted better treatment of women and slaves. Christian worship forbade the veneration of the lubaale (spirits of the ancestors). All of these factors and more were perceived as an affront to the authority of the Kabaka (King of Buganda Kingdom) and the ruling class. Furthermore, some believed the Christian missionaries were the forerunners of people intent upon ‘eating their country.’
The fact is, these young men (some just teenagers) endured horrific torture, dismemberment, flogging and unspeakable brutality before finally being burnt alive.
If the story of the Uganda Martyrs interests you, read my blog ‘All roads to Namugongo,’ about the inaugural Uganda Martyrs Walk. In this blog, you can also read more from the brilliant and captivating book about the White Fathers (missionaries from France). Told in a series of letters, it brings to life – in the most terrifying way – the build-up to the Martyrs’ persecution and demise.
If you’d would like to see a copy of the Uganda Martyrs DVD documentary that I helped put together for the Uganda Tourism Board, please contact the Muzungu.
The 22 Ugandans who were burnt to death at Namugongo were canonised by Pope Paul VI on October 18, 1964. It is now believed that the total number killed may have been much higher, in fact: 97 Muslim, 24 Catholic and 25 Anglican Martyrs. Keep reading Diary of a Muzungu in 2016 for information on a new book about Uganda’s Catholic, Protestant and Muslim Martyrs.
Although the Pope does not arrive in Uganda until tomorrow, the souvenir DVD of his visit is already out! “Big ups” to the entrepreneurs of Luwum Street in downtown Kampala! (With thanks to ‘eyes peeled’ journalist Timothy Bukumunhe for this one).
Did you know…? Pope Francis is the third Pope to visit Uganda
According to the web site of Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo “Pope Paul VI visited Uganda on 31st July, 1969, the very first Papal visit to the African Continent as a whole” and “His Holiness Pope John Paul II visited Uganda in 1993.” Below are some wonderful black and white photos of the first Papal visit to Africa in 1969, courtesy of the Uganda High Commission in Malaysia.
The reconstruction and development of Namugongo Martyrs Shrine and Basilica runs into billions of Uganda shillings. These improvements are well overdue, not only for the visit of the Pope, but for the estimated one million worshippers who visit Namugongo to commemorate the Martyrs every June. The Uganda Tourism Board is now actively promoting religious tourism. The reconstruction of the pavilion; the excavation of the pond (from which believers have been taking ‘holy water’ – and a few germs, surely!); landscaping and construction of several dozen toilets, are a good investment for future visitors. Couples will even be able to get married in the new and improved setting.
The Anglican Uganda Martyrs Shrine at Namugongo has also been rebuilt. This is the shrine that features the model of the Martyrs being burned alive.
Munyonyo, on the edge of Lake Victoria, is said to be where the terrible events all started. After many months (years?) of antagonism, history says that the final death knell for the Martyrs was when Kabaka Mwanga lost his favourite gun in the lake after an unsuccessful hippo hunting trip. When he returned to court, furious, no-one was there to greet him. Rather, they were elsewhere, praying to their new God. This was the final affront to the Kabaka’s patience – or so the story goes… A new Martyrs Shrine at Munyonyo has just been completed, ahead of Pope Francis’ visit.We have yet to understand what Pope Francis’ legacy will be to Uganda and East Africa. Beyond the feelgood factor, tomorrow’s day off school, the souvenirs and the new tourism infrastructure, how will Uganda be perceived externally after his visit? How will the countries’ different religions interact with each other? How will the poor of this country be motivated or consoled? The Muzungu awaits with interest…
So did the Muzungu get to see Pope Francis?
Not one to miss an opportunity, I can share the scintillating news that I saw the Pope’s arm waving at us as his motorcade zipped past us.
Somehow my friend Hope missed seeing him first time he drive past (where were you looking girl!) so we decided to hang about for an hour – buying papal souvenirs – waiting for him to drive back the other way.
I’d never thought myself the kind of girl to have a picture of any religious leader on my wall, but I like this guy Pope Francis.