President Yoweri Museveni has visited the Uganda Martyrs’ Catholic Church in Rome, and due to meet Pope Francis today.
By David Lumu
ROME - President Yoweri Museveni, who is currently in Italy, has visited the Uganda Martyrs’ Catholic Church in Rome, which is dedicated to the Uganda Catholic Martyrs by the Vatican and described as the most beautiful church in the world.
He is due to meet Pope Francis later on Monday.
Accompanied by the First Lady and Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Janet Museveni and ministers, among others, the President also toured a number of historical sites in Rome and the Vatican.
In brief remarks to worshipers who attended the Sunday prayers, at the Uganda Catholic Martyrs’ Church, Museveni said he had not visited the premises before because he was not aware of that church.
At the church, he was shown bones of some of the Uganda Martyrs canonised on October 18, 1964 by Pope Paul VI.
President Museveni, seated next to his wife Janet, attend prayers at the Uganda Martyrs Church in Rome. (PPU)
Rev. Fr. Ivan Mladinio of Uganda Martyrs Church in Rome shows the president and his delegation the bones of the Uganda martyrs (PPU)
After touring the complex, which includes, a church building, recreation facilities and an offi ce the President donated $10,000 (sh26m) to projects run by the church.
“I did not visit you during the previous two times I have been in Rome because nobody in Uganda told me about this church,” he said, adding, however, “that by the time the church was dedicated to the Uganda Martyrs, the country was in political turmoil.”
He assured the people that since the country is peaceful, he will maintain closeness with the church. Museveni noted that the dedication was important to the martyrs, Ugandans and the country.
Museveni told the worshippers that Christian organisations had contributed to Uganda’s social, health and education sectors and that Christians are 86% of the population. He introduced Thereza Mbiire, one of the people he travelled with, who attended the dedication in 1980.
The parish priest, the Rev. Fr. Dan Luigi, thanked the President for visiting them and said that his visit was important because he was the first president to visit.
The President had earlier toured the Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica. He visited a number of the church’s historical and important places. The church and the museum attract over 25,000 tourists a day.
The First Couple and the Ugandan delegation to Rome tour the Vatican Museum. (PPU)
President Museveni, his wife Janet and the Ugandan delegation at the Uganda Martyrs Church in Rome. (PPU)
Museveni also visited the Mausoleum of Hadrian, usually known as Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel), Roman Colosseum or Coliseum, originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian, the tomb of the unknown soldier and the Piazza Venesia.
The Government’s invitation of the Pope is likely to be one of the items on the agenda. He will be the third Pope to visit Uganda.
Pope Paul VI visited Uganda in 1969, while Pope John Paul II visited in 1993. When Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pontiff last year, Museveni, in a congratulatory Twitter message, wrote:
“His Holiness Pope Francis. This is to congratulate you upon your election to the holy office of the Pope. Your Holiness, there is added significance that you are the first Pope to come from the third world, where the majority of Christians live. I am sure you will use your life experience to bring the necessary changes to the Catholic Church.”
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President Museveni meets Pope Francis today