Ugandans give pope exuberant welcome as he urges unity

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Cindy Wooden

KAMPALA, Uganda (CNS) — Witnessing
to what is true, good and beautiful — even if that witness is motivated by
different faiths — brings people together and strengthens a nation, Pope
Francis said.

Arriving in Uganda from Kenya Nov.
27, Pope Francis was greeted by a number of dance troupes playing drums as well
as traditional horns and stringed instruments. Many of the dancers wore rattles
on their calves, and some of the men wore the skins of the spotted hyena around
their waists.

While the pope fulfilled the
protocol duty of reviewing the military troops, he could not pass by the dance
troupes without thanking them, especially the children.

Pope Francis went from the airport
to the State House in Entebbe, where he immediately drew people’s attention to
the Ugandan Martyrs — 23 Anglicans and 22 Catholics — executed by King Mwanga
II of Buganda between November 1885 and January 1887.

“They remind us of the
importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have
played and continue to play in the cultural economic and political life of this
country,” the pope told President Yoweri Museveni, other government
officials and members of the diplomatic corps.

The martyrs, he said, “also
remind us that despite our different beliefs and convictions, all of us are
called to seek the truth, to work for justice and reconciliation and to
respect, protect and help one another as members of our one human family.”

On the third evening of his
three-nation trip to Africa, Pope Francis said he wanted to draw attention to
Africa as a whole, and not just to the continent’s problems. He praised Uganda
particularly for welcoming refugees and allowing them to work.

“Our world, caught up in
wars, violence and various forms of injustice is witnessing an unprecedented
movement of peoples,” he said. “How we deal with them is a test of
our humanity, our respect for human dignity and above all our solidarity with
our brothers and sisters in need.”

As he did earlier in Kenya, the
pope also urged African leaders to dedicate themselves to ensuring education
and employment for their young people, the majority of the continent’s population.

Pope Francis said his prayer was
that all Ugandans “will always prove worthy of the values which have
shaped the soul of your nation.”

The exuberance of the dancers at
the airport was only a tiny hint of the welcome Uganda had in store for the
pope: Hundreds of thousands of people waited for hours along the entire 27-mile
stretch of road leading from the State House to the Munyonyo neighborhood of

Munyonyo is the place where King
Mwanga condemned the martyrs to death. As the dark of night settled in outside
a shrine run by the Conventual Franciscans, Pope Francis greeted hundreds of
catechists holding candles.

He told the representatives of
Uganda’s 14,000 catechists — many of whom administer remote communities that
have no priest — that theirs is a holy work.

“Thank you for the sacrifices
which you and your families make,” he told them. It is particularly
beautiful that they teach children to pray and help parents raise their
children in the faith.

To be effective, Pope Francis
said, a catechist must be an example of love, faith and mercy and not just a
good and eloquent teacher.

The pope told the catechists to be
strong like the martyrs, “go forth without fear to every town and village
in this country to spread the good seed of God’s word.”

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Wooden on Twitter: @Cindy_Wooden.

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