VAST crowds of Ugandans greeted Pope Francis on Saturday as he honoured Christians martyred for their faith on the second leg of a landmark trip to Africa
VAST crowds of Ugandans greeted Pope Francis on Saturday as he honoured Christians martyred for their faith on the second leg of a landmark trip to Africa, which he dubbed "the continent of hope".
The 78-year-old pontiff received a rapturous welcome as he arrived at a shrine to the martyrs at Namugongo, just outside the capital Kampala, where some 45 Christians were executed in 1886 for refusing to recant their faith.
Wild cheers and singing broke out as Francis arrived at the open air shrine. Over 100,000 people had waited from before dawn to attend the mass, a key highlight of his visit to Uganda.
Later, he will meet with young Ugandans at a huge ceremonial ground in Kololo.
Catholic faithful from neighbouring war-torn South Sudan also came for the mass, travelling for 12 hours by bus to catch a glimpse of the Argentine pope, who has made humility and help for the poor a hallmark of his tenure.
'Continent of hope'
Pope Francis, who railed against corruption and wealthy minorities who hoard resources at the expense of the poor during his three days in Kenya, struck a more optimistic tone in Uganda since arriving in the neighbouring east African nation late Friday.
In his opening speech, Francis said his visit was "meant to draw attention to Africa as a whole: its promise, its hopes, its struggles and its achievements," saying: "The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope."
Travelling from the airport, he chose to ride in a small hatchback car as waving crowds thronged the roadside.
President Yoweri Museveni describing the pontiff's compassion for the poor and his frankness of spirit as "an encouragement for all of us”.
Pope Francis has shrugged off safety fears, joking that he was "more worried about the mosquitoes".
He travels to war-torn Central African Republic on Sunday, his final destination before returning to Rome.
Africa is the continent of hope - Pope Francis