By David Lumu and Juliet Lukwago
GOVERNMENT has said that the invitation that President Yoweri Museveni and Archbishop Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga jointly sent to Pope Francis for the Uganda Martyrs golden jubilee celebrations still stands.
“He (the Pope) might not be part of the October 18 celebrations but we expect him to be around when the redevelopment of the Martyrs site is completed,” said Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo
Ofwono’s communication follows a stakeholder’s meeting that Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi held on Wednesday at his office where an update was issued about the events that Government is spearheading in line with the October 18 Golden Jubilee celebrations since the Uganda Martyrs were canonized.
On September 21, 2013, the Government and the Catholic Church sent an invitation through Archbishop Lwanga to Pope Francis.
However, in a notice to Christians in March this year, Archbishop John Baptist Odama, the chairperson of the Uganda Episcopal Conference said: “The Holy Father did receive our invitation and was very grateful. However due to prior commitments, he is unable to visit Uganda this year.”
To prepare for this anticipated visit, which will perhaps be next year, Ofwono said the Prime Minister Mbabazi announced before stakeholders the construction of a new pavilion and an altar estimated to cost sh36b.
Mbabazi’s spokesperson Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi said that during the stakeholder’s meeting the Premier made it categorical that Government’s invitation to Pope Francis still stands.
Ofwono said that Museveni will on Friday launch the sh36b fundraising drive for the reconstruction of the Uganda Martyrs Namugongo shrine at a Government organized dinner at Serena hotel.
“On Friday the President will preside over the launch of the sh36b fundraising dinner at Serena. This redevelopment drive of the shrine is spearheaded by Government,” he said.
Lwanga recently said that the Church will redevelop some structures at the Namugongo site and also reconstruct new ones, including relocating the open-air- pavilion that houses the altar and a museum where the history of each Martyr and their portrait would be put on display for pilgrims and other interested people.
The Martyrs were beatified on June 6, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, and canonized on October 18 1964, in the presence of bishops from all over the world who had gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, were canonized by Pope Paul VI.
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