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Karibu! – welcome to East Africa – Pope Francis

Nov 26 • 5648 views • 3 Comments on Karibu! – welcome to East Africa – Pope Francis Uganda

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.

Alan Kasujja and the BBC crew welcome Pope Francis to Uganda

Alan Kasujja and the BBC crew welcome Pope Francis to Uganda wearing #ondaba “I’m so Uganda” T shirts

 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.

Pope Francis visits East Africa

“Women ask questions that men just don’t get.” Interesting to hear what Pope Francis will say to the people of Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic on his first visit to East Africa

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.

Pope Francis visits East Africa. The Uganda programme

Pope Francis visits East Africa. The Uganda programme

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.”

model of the burning of the Namugongo Martyrs

In 1886 the Namugongo Martyrs were burned alive

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.

Photographer at the Namugongo Basilica, Catholic Martyrs Shrine

Photographer at the Namugongo Basilica, Catholic Martyrs Shrine

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).

Pope Francis in Uganda. pre visit souvenir DVD

Pope Francis in Uganda. pre visit souvenir DVD

Pope Francis visits East Africa. souvenir rosary

100k UGX – approx $30 US – seems like a lot of money for a souvenir rosary but this money has been helping reconstruction of Uganda Martyr projects across Kampala – let’s hope

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.

Namugongo Martyrs Shrine renovation by Roko Construction

President Yoweri Museveni inspecting renovation works at Namugongo Martyrs Shrine. Roko Construction is the company that built the original shrine

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.

Welcome banner for Pope Francis, Nsambya, Kampala #PopeInUganda

Boda boda drives past welcome banner for Pope Francis, Nsambya, Kampala #PopeInUganda

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.

Munyonyo Martrs Shrine new construction. Photo Juliet Lukwago

The brand spanking new Munyonyo Martrs Shrine. Photo Juliet Lukwago

Pope Francis thumbs-up

Thumbs-up to Pope Francis! What a refreshing break he is with the stuffy traditions of the past

Pope Francis Public Holiday Announcement Uganda

Oh Uganda! Pope Francis Public Holiday  – just announced!…. [wrote some joker…!]

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?

Diary of a Muzungu meets Pope Francis, Kampala

Diary of a Muzungu meets Pope Francis, Kampala

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.

Pope Francis waves at the crowd. Munyonyo #PopeInUganda

A white robed papal arm waves at us as he whizzes past. Pope Francis leaving Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine, Kampala

Welcoming the Pope to Munyonyo #PopeInUganda

Hope and Julia welcoming the Pope to Munyonyo in front of the shiny new signpost to the Martyrs Shrine

Pope Francis souvenir shopping in Munyonyo #PopeInUganda

Pope Francis souvenir shopping in Munyonyo #PopeInUganda

Souvenir seller Pope Francis Munyonyo #PopeInUganda

Souvenir seller welcomes the Pope to Munyonyo

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.

How do you think Pope Francis’ visit will affect Ugandans and all East Africans? What are your thoughts about his trip?

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3 Responses to Karibu! – welcome to East Africa – Pope Francis

  1. […] The Martyrs Walk across Kampala – launched in 2014 – retraces the last few hours and days of the Martyrs’ fateful journey as they were forced to walk towards their death. Embarking on the Martyrs’ Walk will give you a greater understanding of their contribution to history. The story of St Balikuddembe (namesake of Owino market) will stay in my mind forever. I revisited the Uganda Martyrs’ history when Pope Francis visited Uganda. […]

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