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Monday,October 19,2020 22:50 PM

Martyrs day without pilgrims

By Jacky Achan

Added 3rd June 2020 10:54 AM

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the suspension of public gatherings in Uganda just like in many countries across the world to avert its spread through crowds.

Martyrs day without pilgrims

A believer prays from outside Namugongo. (Picture by Richard Sanya)

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the suspension of public gatherings in Uganda just like in many countries across the world to avert its spread through crowds.

UGANDAMARTYRS DAY COVID-19

For the first time in history, Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Uganda is empty of pilgrims and visitors as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to afflict the world. The June 3, Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations have been canceled.

As of June 1, 2020, there were 6,300,444 coronavirus cases globally of these 457 cases were registered in Uganda, and there were 374,527 deaths worldwide.

The chairman of the Uganda Episcopal Conference Bishop Antony Zziwa, in a letter to fellow Bishops dated April 29, 2020, requested that this year's Martyrs Day celebrations be postponed due to COVID-19.

Picture by Richard Sanya, in Namugongo



The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the suspension of public gatherings in Uganda just like in many countries across the world to avert its spread through crowds.

You all know how COVID-19 has impacted the lives of billions of people throughout the world. In Uganda, institutions of learning, churches, and several businesses and offices have been closed for more than a month.

Numerous other ways to prevent the invasive spread of the virus have been put in place by the government and World Health Organisation, (WHO). They include frequent hand washing, social distancing, quarantine, and ban on air, water and road transport.

Further, Government has put stringent restrictions on public gatherings which have made worship and celebrations of the Eucharist, sacraments, and other liturgical-pastoral activities with our faithful very difficult.

Picture by Richard Sanya, in Namugongo



"Given that background, Right Rev. Serverus Jjumba, the Bishop of the Diocese of Masaka, has officially informed me that his Diocese will not be in a position to organise the 2020 Namugongo Martyrs Day celebration," wrote Bishop Zziwa.

He further stated, "the position of Masaka Diocese should be understood in light of the fact that organising the celebrations at Namugongo requires frequent meetings involving several people."

Worshipers praying outside Namugongo. (Picture by Richard Sanya)



The Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations are a massive gathering of the faithful, usually bringing together close to a million pilgrims from different parts of the world.

Masaka Diocese would have been leading this year's Martyrs Day celebrations for the Catholic faithful, but ZZiwa said the Virus is still alive in many countries including Uganda, hence the cancellation.

The Church of Uganda, which equally celebrates the Anglican Martyrs on the same day, at a nearby shrine, is holding scientific celebrations.

The Church of Uganda Provincial Secretary, the Rev. Canon William Ongeng, in a statement, said they are having celebrations in Namugongo but with very few invited people including the President who has been invited as the Chief Guest.

The History of Uganda Martyrs

The Uganda Martyrs are a group of 45 Anglican and Roman Catholic martyrs were executed during the persecution of Christians under the King of Buganda Kingdom in Uganda Kabaka Mwanga II, from 1885 to 1887.

A lady vending religious material outside Namugongo (Picture by Richard Sanya)

Most of them were young men who abandoned traditional forms of worship. The King Muwanga II feared that the new religion and presence of the missionaries were severely eroding his authority in the Kingdom hence ordered their execution.

There were 22 Catholic and 23 Anglican converts.

The 22 catholic martyrs were collectively beatified by Pope Benedict XV in 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on October 18, 1964, as Saints. The celebration of Uganda Martyrs Day is every June 3 which is a national holiday.

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