Pope Francis

Pope Francis

The only African countries to have been visited by at least two reigning popes are Cameroon, Angola and Benin, all visited by popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

Pope Paul VI who canonized the 22 Uganda Martyrs in 1964, was the first Pope to come to Uganda 46 years back, but his name still rings a loud bell in the memory of Ugandans ? Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga said during celebrations to mark 50 years of the martyrs at Namugongo.

Pope Paul travelled to Uganda in 1969, five years after canonising the martyrs purposely to visit Namugongo Martyrs? shrines and other holy places, especially those where the other young martyrs were slaughtered like animals.

While in Uganda, Pope Paul VI also consecrated the altar in the minor Basilica erected at Karooli- Lwanga?s Martyrdom.

He visited the Protestant martyrs? shrines adjacent to the Catholic Martyrs shrines and plugged a wooden pictogram to recognize the Anglican Martyrs, who too died for the same cause.

The pictogram is to the present day placed in their Church near the Martyrs graveyard.

Pope Francis will set foot here after 46 years of Pope Paul VI and 22 of Pope John Paul II on July 31, 1969 and February 7, 1993 respectively.

After declaring the Uganda Martyrs saints, Paul VI also became the first reigning pope to visit the sub-Saharan Africa, when he landed at Entebbe on July 31, 1969 and left on August 2, 1969; after making a pilgrimage to Namugongo shrine and laying a foundation stone for a mini Basilica at the very spot St Charles Lwanga was killed, in honour of the 22 fallen gallants.

The Pope made a stinging brief speech on dictatorial and communist leaders, saying that the Catholic Church would not just sit idle as innocent citizens were mistreated the world over by dictators who wished to deprive the people of their rights.

He concluded with a phrase in Luganda, ?Mwebale nnyo okumpuliriza?, to which the crowd thundered ?Kale Kitaffe mu Katonda!? accompanied by thunderous clapping.

Some of the congregation was heard whispering to one another, ?Owulidde Papa bw?amanyi Oluganda??

His journey from Entebbe to Lubaga Cathedral where he was received by Tanzania?s Cardinal Laurean Rugambwa, took the Pope two hours because of the human traffic as everyone craved to shake hands with the Holy See.

He reigned as Pope from June 21, 1963 until his death. Pope John XXIII succeeded him. Then later the second Pope to visit Uganda on February 2, 1993 Pope Paul II (saint Paul) Succeeded.

The second papal visit saw Pope John Paul II (now saint John Paul II) spend 6 days in the country, in February 1993.

On Ferbuary 7 he visited the Uganda Martyrs? Shrine Namugongo and elevated it to a minor Basilica.

Pope Francis? impending visit to Uganda will be historic, since the land of the martyrs will host him even before his native Argentina.

By Juliet Lukwago, The New Vision

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