Last minutes preparations are in full swing for the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration due Saturday, 3 June at Namugongo Catholic Shrine.
The Chairperson of the Organising Committee, Dr Kiiza Aliba, who is also the Executive Secretary of the Justice and Peace Department of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, said that preparations are at the final stage with 95 percent of the work complete.
“We only need some additional touches on technical aspects which will be finalised today, 2 June. So far we have already received thousands of pilgrims from within and outside the country, and more are still registering. We expect the Shrine to be flooded with millions of pilgrims by Saturday morning,” Aliba said.
The Uganda Martyrs Day celebration usually attracts millions of enthusiastic pilgrims from across the world. The majority of these pilgrims often come to the shrine on foot as a demonstration of their faith. Others, use various means of transport to reach Namugongo shrine.
Last year, Tanzania had the largest contingent of registered pilgrims (4,961) from the East African Community member countries besides hosts Uganda. Kenya had at least 4,000 registered pilgrims while 800 came from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 300 from Rwanda, 712 from Burundi, and 105 from South Sudan. Other international Pilgrims also came from the United States of America (7), Nigeria (117), Mexico (4), Malawi (100), Italy, Zambia, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.
The annual celebration commemorates the heroic faith of the 45 Martyrs, both Catholic and Anglican, who were burnt to death on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II, 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 Saints.
In addition to the Catholic Martyrs, there are two Catechists from Paimol: Blessed Daudi Okello and Blessed Jildo Irwa who were killed in 1918 and were beatified by John Paul II on October 20, 2002.
Meanwhile, the Catholic faithful across Uganda will on Friday conclude a novena to the Uganda Martyrs. The nine-days of prayer started on Thursday, 25 May.
Hundreds of pilgrims have also participated in the second ‘Walk of Faith pilgrimage’ which took place on Saturday 27 May. The ‘Walk of Faith’ pilgrimage was introduced in 2016 as part of the Uganda Martyrs celebrations. The walk started from Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine to St. Matia Mulumba Parish in Old Kampala, where St. Matia Mulumba (one of the Catholic martyrs) was killed.
Uganda’s Diocese of Hoima will animate the 2017 Uganda Martyrs Day celebration under the theme, “Stand Firm in Faith That We Have Been Taught” (Colossians 2:7). A total budget of US$ 166,064 (Ugandan Shillings 597million) has been allocated for the preparation of this year’s event.
(Jacinta W. Odongo/ Media Officer, Uganda Episcopal Conference)