The Latest: Pope urges Ugandans to be missionaries at home
Pope Francis has urged Ugandans to be missionaries at home by taking care of the elderly, the poor and abandoned.
Francis made the comments during Mass on Saturday at Uganda’s most famous Christian shrine: the site where 45 19th-century martyrs were tortured and burned alive rather than renouncing their faith.
Francis told the faithful at the Namugongo shrine that they should look to the example of the martyrs in spreading the faith.
He says: “This legacy is not served by an occasional remembrance or by being enshrined in a museum as a precious jewel. Rather we honor them and all the saints when we carry on their witness to Christ, in our homes and neighborhoods, in our workplaces and civil society, whether we never leave our homes or we go to the farthest corner of the world.”
Amid cheers, Pope Francis arrived at the Catholic shrine to celebrate Mass just outside the Ugandan capital.
He was driven around in his open-sided popemobile, waving at tens of thousands of pilgrims occupying the terraced pavilion on the grounds of the shrine, a minor basilica that is dedicated to 22 Catholic martyrs who were killed in the late 19th century on the orders of a local king.
Francis is in Uganda to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the martyrs by Pope Paul VI.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is among the dignitaries attending the Mass, where Francis is expected to praise the example set by the martyrs who were burned alive when they refused to renounce their faith.
Even after the pope’s arrival, thousands more pilgrims were still trying to access the shrine.
Peter Sebandeke, a 73-year-old catechist, pondered the long line of people and gave up.
Firming himself up with his umbrella, he said: “I will just stand here in this spot and hope to see the pope. That will be enough.”
He did get to see the pope.
Pope Francis has visited an Anglican shrine that is dedicated to a group of Christians who were killed in the late 19th century on the orders of a local king who wanted to stem the rise of Christianity.
Francis, arriving in his open-sided popemobile, was welcomed Saturday morning by Anglican bishops who gave him a tour of the sanctuary inside the shrine.
Hundreds of people lined up along the narrow road leading to the shrine, hoping to catch a glimpse of Francis. He will later celebrate Mass at a nearby Catholic shrine dedicated to 22 Catholic martyrs who were canonized in 1964.
Children in school uniform are among those lining up to enter the two shrines. At the Catholic shrine, women are serving food and drinks to pilgrims just happy to watch the Mass on giant screens set up outside.
Willis Olwora, a civil servant, who was among those hoping to see Francis at the Anglican shrine, said that the pope’s message on loving and respecting one another “touched the hearts of so many here, including mine.”
He says: “I am praying for peace, especially during this time of elections.”
Some of the pilgrims waiting for Pope Francis at Uganda’s most famous Catholic shrine have been here since lunchtime Friday, hoping to score a good spot to see his first Mass in the country.
Pilgrims were camped out on mats, bundled in blankets against the morning damp chill as final preparations got under way at the Namugongo shrine. The site is where most of the 45 Anglican and Catholic martyrs were burned to death in the late 19th century on orders of the local king after they refused to renounce their faith.
The 27-year-old Benah Ssanyu showed off the mud encrusting her sandals and pants — evidence of her 1 p.m. Friday arrival that scored her a prime, front row seat for Francis’ Mass honoring the martyrs.
She says she didn’t mind the mud or the rain that soaked her overnight. She says the martyrs were a fundamental part of her faith: “They are so important because they sacrificed their life because of their religion.”
Tens of thousands of people are streaming into a Kampala sanctuary where Pope Francis will celebrate his first Mass in Uganda honoring the country’s martyrs.
As the sun rose Saturday over Namugongo shrine, pilgrims arriving on foot found spots in the park area where they could follow the Mass as venders sold rosaries, Mass booklets, pope calendars and plastic figurines of the Madonna.
Francis is due to pray first at the shrine honoring the 23 Anglican martyrs killed on orders of the local king in the late 1800s, and then at the nearby shrine marking the spot where another 22 Catholics were killed, many burned alive after they refused to renounce their faith.