Pope Francis in Uganda: Honoring Martyrs, Firing Up the Faith

By Claire Creegan

ugandan_motherNEW YORK—Pope Francis’ scheduled Mass in Uganda in observance of the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Ugandan Martyrs will help revitalize the faith of one of Africa’s youngest Churches, a local Church official said.

In an interview with international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Msgr. John Baptist Kauta, secretary general of the bishops’ conference of Uganda, described how the country’s violent past has sown the seeds for the rise of a hopeful, vital Church to emerge. Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Uganda Nov. 27, 2015 and is due to celebrate the special Mass the following day in the city of Namugongo.

Also on the agenda is a meeting with catechists and teachers in Munyonyo.Father Kauta said more than 2 million faithful are expected to join the Holy Father in honoring the 22 Catholics who died for their faith in the 19th century. The prelate also stressed that the theme of the Pope’s visit to Uganda–‘You Will Be My Witnesses’–is taken from the Acts of the Apostles 1:8, which deals with the subject of martyrdom.

The priest added: “We too are called to witness in one way or another. Our faith must be alive and shown through our good work.” He added that “the Pope’s simple life is a beautiful example. He revitalizes the people’s faith and reminds us there is always room for improvement.”

Father Kauta said the visit was an excellent reminder of the universality of the Church, which is particularly important for Uganda, where the Church is relatively new in some of some of the nation’s states. Pilgrims from Kenya, Tanzania, Australia and the United States are expected to make the journey to see the Pope.

The spotlight on Uganda prompted by the papal visit will be a boost to the tourism industry, while Father Kauta hopes the visit will also encourage interreligious dialogue; he noted that Uganda’s Muslim community had passed on their warm wishes for a successful papal sojourn in Uganda.

The Pope is also scheduled to meet a number of married couples and more than 100,000 young people, an occasion the priest hopes will strengthen the faith of the youth. He said:

“It is like he is saying: ‘We appreciate what you are doing, keep up the good work.’ It gives faith to all of us. We are flourishing, though we are experiencing the pangs of birth as a new church in a new age.”

The Ugandan Church relies on significant outside support, including aid from ACN in the form of means of transportation for many of the country’s 14,000 catechists who are responsible for ministry in enormous parishes in the countryside.

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action. Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world. The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide. For more information contact Michael Varenne at michael@churchinneed.org or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384. www.churchinneed.org