Uganda: Pope Francis Confirms Visit

Uganda: Pope Francis Confirms Visit

The Observer (Kampala)– It’s official. Pope Francis is coming to Uganda later this year, the Catholic Church here and the Vatican have confirmed.

Excited by the news, the outgoing parish priest of Uganda Martyrs’ Namugongo shrine described Uganda as “unique.”

Fr Emmanuel Kimbowa said in an interview on Tuesday that it cannot be a coincidence that the first papal visit to Africa was in Uganda (Pope Paul VI in 1969) and that his successor, Pope John Paul II, also came to Uganda in 1993, and now the ‘revolutionary’ Pope Francis is on his way.

“This shows you how phenomenal the Uganda martyrs are. Uganda, as a Christian country, should be proud both spiritually and economically,” Fr Kimbowa said.

On his way from a week-long papal visit to Asia, Pope Francis confirmed he will be coming to Africa later this year, his first visit to the continent. He said the trip had been “a bit delayed due to Ebola.”

The Argentinean pope said he will make stops in Uganda and the Central African Republic. He also confirmed plans to travel to the United States in September. On his six-day US visit, the pontiff is expected to address the United Nations General Assembly, among other engagements.

Fr Kimbowa, one of the architects of the planned redevelopment of the martyrs’ shrines both at Namugongo and Munyonyo, said he has been translating Pope Paul VI’s homily at the Vatican during the canonization of the Uganda martyrs in 1964.

“I have finished the translation from Latin to English. I now want to translate it into Luganda. I first did it for my own [consumption] but now I think everyone should know how relevant the Uganda martyrs were to the pope,” he told The Observer yesterday.

President Museveni visited the Vatican late last year and the issue of a possible papal visit to Uganda was discussed, but no guarantees were made. The pope’s visit is primarily to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the canonization of the Uganda martyrs. Now that the visit has been confirmed, Fr Kimbowa says the redevelopment of the Namugongo shrine should be fast-tracked.

Citing the Philippines, where the pope last week attracted over six million people in one event, Fr Kimbowa expressed fears that Uganda currently lacks capacity to handle such a crowd.

“Namugongo cannot ably host a million people in its current state. This is a challenge we have to quickly address,” he said.

Late last year, President Museveni commissioned the Shs 36bn Namugongo and Munyonyo martyrs shrines redevelopment. During the press conference aboard the plane, AFP journalist Jean Louis De Vaissiere asked:

“Holy Father, you have now gone twice to Asia. The Catholics of Africa have yet to receive a visit from you. You know that from South Africa to Nigeria to Uganda, many faithful who suffer from poverty, war,[and] Islamic fundamentalism hope you will visit this year. So, I would like to ask you, when and where are you thinking of going?”

The pope replied: “The plan is to go to Central African Republic and Uganda. These two, this year. I think that this will be towards the end of the year, because of the weather, no? They have to calculate when there won’t be rains. This trip is a bit overdue because there was the Ebola problem. It is a big responsibility to hold big gatherings, contagion, no? But in these countries there is no problem. These two are hypothetical but it will be this year.”

Categories: Africa

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