Pope sees a land of hope

CityPress - - News - TABU BU­TA­GIRA in Kam­pala news@city­press.co.za

Pope Fran­cis de­clared Africa a “land of hope” on his maiden pas­toral visit to the con­ti­nent, two years af­ter his elec­tion to lead the world’s 1.2 bil­lion Catholics. In meet­ings in Kam­pala, Uganda – his sec­ond stop dur­ing the six-day, three-na­tion tour – the pon­tiff chal­lenged lead­ers to in­vest in the ed­u­ca­tion and em­ploy­ment of a pre­dom­i­nantly young African pop­u­la­tion.

The mis­match be­tween a nat­u­rally en­dowed con­ti­nent and im­pov­er­ished cit­i­zens prompted the pope, an ad­vo­cate for so­cial jus­tice and equal­ity, to chal­lenge lead­ers to al­low nat­u­ral re­sources to ben­e­fit every­one in their coun­tries.

His view partly draws from the gen­eros­ity of Uganda to host and help refugees to re­build their lives in “se­cu­rity and dig­nity”. There are an es­ti­mated 230 000 refugees in the coun­try, 125 000 of whom are South Su­danese na­tion­als who fled the resur­gence of war in De­cem­ber 2013, ac­cord­ing to the UN Refugee Agency.

Dur­ing the pope’s visit, Kam­pala was locked down for se­cu­rity rea­sons, with sev­eral streets closed for ex­press runs by the pa­pal en­tourage and VIPs.

At the Uganda Mar­tyrs’ Shrine in Na­mu­gongo, 15km out­side the city, cho­ris­ters sang and danced en­thu­si­as­ti­cally in a well­chore­ographed per­for­mance that en­thused the con­gre­ga­tion. The crowd broke into wild cheers when­ever the pope said some­thing.

The pope ar­rived in a truck that had been con­verted into a pope­mo­bile, and he waved at and blessed the gath­er­ing. He de­parted in a small Kia car.

His visit came dur­ing Uganda’s third week of pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns and not only brought po­lit­i­cal foes to­gether but prompted an un­ex­pected hand­shake be­tween Pres­i­dent Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni, archri­val Kizza Be­si­gye – a re­tired mil­i­tary colonel – and Amama Mbabazi, the for­mer prime min­is­ter.

The trio, un­til last week, had ac­ri­mo­nious ex­changes while on the cam­paign trail, but those dif­fer­ences of opin­ion did not man­i­fest them­selves in the pres­ence of the pope in Na­mu­gongo.

At yes­ter­day’s homily, at­tended by South Su­dan’s pres­i­dent, Salva Kiir, the pope in­voked the cen­tral theme of his pa­pacy – evan­ge­li­sa­tion – urg­ing Catholics to get out of their spir­i­tual en­clo­sures and reach out to strangers to grow the flock.

The pon­tiff told the cheer­ing faith­ful and dozens of bish­ops from across Africa: “If, like the mar­tyrs, we daily fan into flame the gift of the [holy] spirit who dwells in our hearts, then we will surely be­come the mis­sion­ary dis­ci­ples which [Je­sus] Christ calls us to be.”

The evan­ge­li­sa­tion should tar­get one’s own fam­ily and friends, but also “those whom we do not know, es­pe­cially those who might be un­friendly, even hos­tile, to us”, he said.

He spoke while fac­ing the shrine, where early Chris­tian con­verts in the coun­try were de­cap­i­tated or set alight be­cause of their faith.

“Be­cause they had tended to their faith and deep­ened their love of God, they were fear­less in bring­ing Christ to oth­ers, even at the cost of their lives,” the pope said, re­fer­ring to the mar­tyrs.

“Their faith be­came wit­ness. To­day, ven­er­ated as mar­tyrs, their ex­am­ple con­tin­ues to in­spire peo­ple through­out the world. They con­tinue to pro­claim Je­sus Christ and the power of his cross.”

The pon­tiff said the legacy of the Uganda mar­tyrs should not be demon­strated through “oc­ca­sional” pub­lic re­mem­brance, or by be­ing “en­shrined in a mu­seum as a pre­cious jewel”.

“Rather, we hon­our them, and all the saints, when we carry on their wit­ness to Christ, in our homes and neigh­bour­hoods, in our work­places and civil so­ci­ety, whether we never leave our homes or go to the far­thest cor­ner of the world.”

Bu­ta­gira is chief re­porter for the Daily Mon­i­tor in Uganda

PHOTO: STE­FANO REL­LAN­DINI / AP PHOTO

HOLY SO­JOURN Pope Fran­cis meets with Uganda’s pres­i­dent, Yow­eri Kaguta Mu­sev­eni (right) and his wife Janet (left) at the State House in En­tebbe, Uganda, on Fri­day

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