By Jjunju Francis

The Uganda Martyrs day celebration at Namugongo Catholic Shrine was this year held under strict observance of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) set by the Ministry of Health of the Government of Uganda. The celebration which was led by Masaka Diocese was attended by about 200 people.

Rt. Rev. Serverus Jjumba, the Ordinary of Masaka Diocese presided over the Eucharistic celebration under the theme “Do not lose Heart.” The concelebrating bishops included Archbishop Luigi Bianco, the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda; Rt. Rev. Joseph Antony Zziwa, the Chairman of Uganda Episcopal Conference and Bishop of Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese; Rt. Rev. Paul Ssemogerere, Bishop of Kasana-Luweero Diocese and the Apostolic Administrator of Kampala Archdiocese; Rt. Rev. Christopher Kakooza, Bishop of Lugazi Diocese, and Rt. Rev. Matthias Ssekamanya, Bishop Emeritus of Lugazi.

The function was also attended by a small number of clergy, Religious men and women, the laity and invited guests including the newly elected Deputy Speaker of Parliament Hon. Anita Annet Among and some Members of Parliament.

In his homily, Bishop Jjumba pointed out that the pain, despair and suffering brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic is similar to the situation the Uganda martyrs experienced and yet they remained strong in their faith. Ugandans, he said, should emulate the martyrs by remaining strong in faith and love.

The Bishop referred to the message of Pope Francis during his 2015 visit to Uganda in which the Pope urged Ugandans not to be lukewarm but to emulate the 22 Uganda Martyrs with true human values and virtues that promote a harmonious life in a community. He noted that some people were still living in fear, mistrust and pain after the recent general elections but through prayer there will be reconciliation, Justice and peace.

The Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda, His Excellency Luigi Bianco, in his message called for the spirit of solidarity considering that almost everybody is in need due to the effects of Covid-19. He noted that love, faith and service above self are important virtues that all people including leaders should endeavour to practice following the example of the Uganda martyrs.

Missionaries priests carrying relic of Uganda Martyrs in procession before the Holy Mass to celebrate Uganda Martyrs day 2021 at Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo on June 3, 2021
PHOTO BY JULIET LUKWAGO

Meanwhile, the Apostolic Administrator of Kampala Archdiocese, Rt. Rev. Paul Ssemogerere, in his remarks urged Ugandans to observe the Covid-19 SOPs for their own protection and to pray for the end of the pandemic. He observed that Covid-19 has for the second year affected the celebration of the Uganda martyrs day causing many people to participate virtually through the various media platforms.

Bishop Ssemogerere paid tribute to the late Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga of Kampala Archdiocese, who had a great devotion to the Uganda Martyrs and spearheaded the redevelopment of Namugongo Martyrs Shrine. “Let his zeal and devotion to the Uganda martyrs be a pillar of faith, hope and love among Ugandans”, he noted.

The prelate appreciated Masaka Diocese under the leadership of Rt. Rev. Serverus Jjumba for having organised well this year’s celebration amidst the Covid-19 challenges. He also urged Ugandans to love one another in line with the message of Pope Francis’ most recent Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (All brothers) On Fraternity and Social Friendship.

He expressed concern about the increasing kidnaps, brutal attacks and murders in the country with the most recent being the attempted assassination of the former Minister of Works and Transport, General Edward Katumba Wamala, which led to the death of his daughter Brenda Nantongo and driver Haruna Kayondo. These acts the bishop said should be condemned and security agents should investigate them and bring the perpetrators to book.

Bishop Ssemogerere congratulated the newly elected political leaders and called upon Catholics in government to be a beacon of good leadership and fight for peace and reconciliation in Uganda.

The Chairman of Uganda Episcopal Conference, Rt. Rev. Joseph Antony Zziwa in his speech revealed that the Catholic Bishops of Uganda had postponed their plenary meeting that is usually held immediately after the Martyrs day celebration due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the country. He said that only the bishops from Kampala Ecclesiastical Province had attended the celebration due to the current situation.

Bishop Zziwa urged the Christians to remain hopeful and courageous amidst the challenges of the time and called upon all Ugandans to pray and work for peace in the country. He too expressed concern about the rampart murders, corruption, kidnaps, and land wrangles that are causing a lot of pain to the innocent and powerless Ugandans. He also asked the government to release all political detainees or produce them before courts of law to get justice.

Bishop Zziwa announced that the Bishop-elect of Nebbi Catholic Diocese, Rev. Raphael Wokorach would be ordained and installed on June 26, 2021.

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