Pope Francis has urged Ugandans to honour their martyrs every day by caring for others.
The Pope made the appeal at a Mass outside the country’s Catholic shrine to the martyrs.
On Saturday he visited the Anglican shrine and museum located on the site where many of the 45 martyrs died. The main exhibit features statues of men being tortured, bound and thrown on a fire.
Francis had a look of shock on his face as Anglican Archbishop Stanley Ntagali explained how the 22 Catholic and 23 Anglican martyrs were executed on the orders of King Mwanga II in the late 1800s.
In his homily the Pope honoured all the martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, noting that they shared the same faith in Jesus and they offer a witness to “the ecumenism of blood”.
Honouring the martyrs is not something to be done only on their feast day, he said, but must be done daily through loving care for others. Keeping one’s eyes focused on God, he said, “does not diminish our concern for this world, as if we only look to the life to come.
“Instead, it gives purpose to our lives in this world and helps us to reach out to those in need, to cooperate with others for the common good and to build a more just society which promotes human dignity, defends God’s gift of life and protects the wonders of nature, his creation and our common home.”
Pope Francis heard testimony from a woman who was born HIV-positive and a young man, Emmanuel Odokonyero, who was kidnapped by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army in 2003 and tortured before escaping after three months.
Pope tells Central Africans he is pilgrim of peace
Despite serious security concerns, the Pope landed in Central African Republic on Sunday, saying he came as “a pilgrim of peace”.
“Unity in diversity is a constant challenge, one which demands creativity, generosity, self-sacrifice and respect for others,” he said, visiting the country where political and ethnic rivalries have also split people along religious lines.
A brief airport arrival ceremony was held amid tight security provided by the Central Africans, France, the United Nations, extra Vatican police and even some US security officers dressed in dark suits.
Pope Francis and his entourage followed Catherine Samba-Panza, the country’s interim president, in a convoy to the presidential palace.
The highway was lined with tens of thousands of people, many of whom waved palm or other tree branches. Armoured UN vehicles were parked at almost every crossroads.
Speaking at the palace, Francis told Samba-Panza and civic leaders that it was his deep hope that the vote would “enable the country to embark serenely on [a] new chapter of its history”.
Democratic elections, scheduled for October, are now due to be held on December 27.
Uganda’s refugee policy praised
Arriving in Uganda last Friday Pope Francis praised the country for welcoming refugees and allowing them to work.
At the State House – his first stop – the Pope said he wanted to draw attention to Africa as a whole, not just to its problems.
“Our world … is witnessing an unprecedented movement of peoples,” he said. “How we deal with them is a test of our humanity.” Later that evening he told 14,000 catechists to “go forth without fear to every town and village in this country”.
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