The Church of Uganda is a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Spirit-filled Anglican Church engaged in the mission of Jesus Christ in today’s world.
Pope to Anglicans – “This is ecumenism”
“This is ecumenism,” Pope Francis told the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, while being led on a private tour through the new Uganda Martyrs Museum at the Anglican Shrine in Namugongo, Uganda, on 28th November 2015.
The Pope’s comment came as they stopped to meditate at the fire pit where twenty-three Anglicans and twenty-two Roman Catholic converts to Christianity were brutally martyred on 3rd June 1886.
Pope Francis visited Uganda from 27th – 28th November 2015 as one of three countries during his first visit to the continent of Africa. Pilgrimage to the sites of Christian martyrdom from 1885 to 1886 was a major focus for the Pope’s visit to Uganda. Forty-five of the forty-six martyrs on 3rd June 1886 were killed at the site of the Anglican shrine.
Pope Francis is the third Pope to visit the Anglican shrine. Pope Paul VI visited on 2nd August 1969; five years earlier, in 1964, he had canonised the Roman Catholic martyrs. Pope John Paul II visited on 7th March 1993.
Immediately after visiting the Anglican Shrine, Pope Francis conducted a Mass at the Roman Catholic Martyrs Shrine, where one of the forty-six converts was martyred on 3rd June 1886.
In July 2015, during a gathering of 50,000 Roman Catholic Charismatics in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis anticipated his visit to Uganda.
“The blood of the martyrs makes us one,” he told them. “We know that those who kill Christians in hatred of Jesus Christ, before killing, do not ask, ‘But are you an Evangelical or [Anglican] or Orthodox?’ They say, ‘You are Christian,’ and behead them…”
Archbishop Stanley reflected, “The Roman Catholic martyrs died for the same Jesus Christ as the Anglican martyrs.” Together, they suffered; together, they sacrificed; together, they sang. Together, their blood has been the seed of the church in Uganda.
Pope Francis referred to this as the “ecumenism of blood.” He said, “[It is the] unity of the blood of martyrs that makes us one.”
Alluding to a traditional African proverb, Archbishop Stanley said, “If we want to go fast, let us go alone. As the wider Christian community in Uganda, however, if we want to go far, let us go together. This is why we were very happy to welcome the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church to the [Anglican] Church of Uganda.”
During the Pope’s brief visit to the Anglican Martyrs’ Shrine, he also emphasised the importance of prayer by kneeling at the torture tree and offering a personal prayer.
When he emerged from his private tour of the museum, he was welcomed by a very large, enthusiastic, and ululating crowd. His response? He invited everyone to pray together The Lord’s Prayer – “Our Father…”
The assembled congregation then received a double apostolic blessing with Pope Francis and Archbishop Stanley together conferring on everyone the Blessing of God Almighty: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The House of Bishops of the Church of Uganda, along with the Provincial Heads of Laity and Clergy, the Provincial President of Mother’s Union, and several thousand Anglican clergy and laity arrived at the Martyrs’ Shrine at sunrise to prepare to welcome the Pope.
Retired Archbishop Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo has spearheaded the development of the Uganda Martyrs’ Museum to ensure their legacy for future generations.
Pope Francis, at the beginning of his private tour of the new Martyrs Museum, unveiled a dedication stone and offered a prayer that the Uganda Martyrs would continue to inspire generations of youth to follow Christ. Later in the afternoon he met thousands of Ugandan youth in Kampala to encourage them to pray and be faithful to Christ.
The President of Uganda and the First Lady were also present at the Anglican Martyrs’ Shrine.
Note: Photos of Pope Francis’ visit to the Anglican Shrine of the Uganda Martyrs can be found on the Church of Uganda’s website at this link. (Photo credits: Petero Buyondo and Francis Emorut.)