Earlier this month over 500,000 people gathered in northeastern Uganda to celebrate the feast day of Saint Charles Lwanga and companions, who are known as the Uganda Martyrs.
Catholic faithful from around Uganda as well as Sudan, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo gathered at the shrine of the Uganda martyrs in the Diocese of Moroto on June 3 as part of a pilgrimage for the annual feast day, according to the Catholic charity Aid to the Church Need.
“We are standing on soil that is soaked with the blood of the martyrs,” said Bishop Henry Ssentongo of Moroto told the crowd during the event. Between 1885 and 1887 in Namugongo, 22 young men who served as pages at the Court of King Mwanga were speared to death for holding to the tenets of their Catholic faith instead of assenting to the demands of their ruler.
According to the aid organization, the martyrs were among the first Christian converts in their country. Today, 12.6 million of the country's 28 million inhabitants are Catholics, and every year some 400,000 are baptized.
“This pilgrimage should mark a turning point in our lives,” Bishop Ssentongo emphasized in his homily, “it is not enough to celebrate the fact that Uganda is a country of martyrs; instead we must follow in their footsteps and imitate Christ right up to the end!”