KAMPALA. Today, prayers are underway at Namugongo as thousands of Christians commemorate the day the Uganda Martyrs were killed some 128 years ago.
The martyrs, who refused to reject their faith in Jesus Christ, were killed on the orders of Buganda king, Kabaka Mwanga in 1886.
At both the Roman Catholic and the Anglican Martyrs shrines, prayers will start at 9am and are expected to be graced by President Museveni as the chief guest.
Police and other security agencies have been deployed to ensure safety at the shrines and all pilgrims to the annual event are subjected to detailed checks before accessing the prayer grounds.
The occasion attracts millions of pilgrims from all over the world to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo every June 3, where most of the 22 Catholic martyrs and 23 Anglicans were burnt to death.
The event honours the martyrs, who were killed by burning and beheading for their faith on orders of Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda between 1885 and 1887.
This year’s event is themed “Stand firm in the faith that we have been taught” (Colossina 2:7), which calls on the faithful and pilgrims to be strong witnesses in faith, personal lives, families, places of work and all areas that their daily lives influence.
The Mass at the Catholic Shrine will be led by the Hoima Diocese Bishop Vincent Kirabo, assisted by members of the clergy, the laity and the choir from the same archdiocese.
The assistant rector of the Catholic Shrine at Namugongo, Rev Father Innocent Bukenya, explained that Hoima Diocese, which is hosting this year’s celebrations on behalf of Kampala Ecclesiastical Province at the Catholic shrine, had two of the 22 Catholic Martyrs killed — St Andrew Kaggwa and St Anatoli Kiriggwajjo, who hailed from Hoima.
According to Rev Father Bukenya, apart from a few cases of pick pockets, pilgrims already at the shrine have not had serious challenges.
“We have about two million from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi and DR Congo” the Rev Bukenya, told Saturday Monitor yesterday.
Kampala Diocese Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga described the big numbers of pilgrims every year as a manifestation that the Catholic faith is growing.
“I am touched by the depth of faith the walking people exhibit and for me, this shows that our faith is growing and people receive their miracles when they come here, especially when they use the water from the Uganda Martyrs lake,” Dr Lwanga said.
He said although they expect President Museveni as chief guest, the chief celebrant of the day will be Bishop Rev Father Vincent Kirabo of Hoima Diocese.
At the Namugongo Anglican shrine, Rev Henry Segawa, the Namugongo Anglican shrines coordinator, said two groups of pilgrims totaling to more than 100 from Ankole and Bushenga in western Uganda had already arrived by yesterday.
On June 6, 1920 the 22 Catholic Martyrs were beatified by Pope Benedict XV and were declared saints on October 18, 1964 by Pope Paul VI.
|4am||Reporting of Ushers|
|7am- 8am||Clearing of pilgrims for the mass|
|8am-9am||Arrival of dignitaries|
|9am||Arrival of Bishops and the Nuncio|
|9.30am||Procession of the mass begins|
|10am-12pm||Mass begins and ends|
|12pm to 1pm||Speeches from distinguished guests|
|-Leader of the laity|