With less than a month to go before the 2016 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration at Namugongo Catholic Shrine, the theme for this year’s event has been chosen. The theme, which has been extracted from the Gospel of John 8:32 is, “The Truth Will Make You Free.”
The 3 June celebrations will be animated by the Uganda’s Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese. The theme of the celebrations was unveiled recently, at a press conference held at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat (UCS), by Bishop Joseph Antony Zziwa the Ordinary of Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese and Vice Chair of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC
“The Diocese of Kiyinda-Mityana last presided over the Martyrs Day celebrations in 1994 that was shortly after the visit of Pope John Paul II to Uganda in 1993,” Bishop Zziwa said. “The same Diocese is privileged this year to take the celebrations to a higher level following the successful visit of Pope Francis to Uganda last year, and the improvements of Namugongo shrine and grounds,” he added.
The annual celebrations commemorate the heroic faith of the 45 Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, who were burnt to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, the then King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887. Twenty-two Catholic Martyrs were beatified on 6 June 1920, by Pope Benedict XV, and on 18 October 1964, Pope Paul VI canonised them as Saints. In addition to the Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol; Blessed Daudi Okelo and Blessed Gildo Irwa who were killed in 1918. Pope Saint John Paul II beatified the two Catechists on 20 October 2002.
Meanwhile, Kiyinda-Mityana Diocese and the UCS, which constitute the central organising committee, are working hand in hand to make the required preparations. So far, 11 committees have been formed comprising members from Kiyinda-Mityana; members from the UCS and government representatives. The committees include Pastoral and Liturgy, Transport and Protocol, Publicity and Communication, Catering and Welfare, Construction and Decoration, Finance, Security, Pilgrims, Medical, Sanitation and Ushering.
Martyrs Day in Uganda is a national public holiday. The preparations and the actual celebrations have been estimated to cost at least Ushs450m (about US$135 000).
(By Jacinta Odongo, Uganda Episcopal Conference)