President Yoweri Museveni has said that Africa and Uganda in particular will become a centre of gravity for the Catholic Church if religious infrastructures like the Uganda Martyrs Shrines are developed.
“If we develop religious infrastructure and strengthen our faith, Uganda and Africa will become a centre of gravity for the Church” he said.
The President said this will enable Christians and those who are hungry for the faith to take spiritual refuge in these centers to renew their faith. He said all the Uganda Martyrs centers will be developed in order to attract more pilgrims to the country.
The President was on Tuesday speaking at a fundraising dinner held at the Sheraton Hotel in preparation of the visit of His Holiness Pope Francis to Uganda. The funds will go towards the reconstruction of Namugongo and Munyonyo Martyrs Shrines.
The Catholic Church requires Shs. 7.5 Billion to complete the first phase of Martyrs Shrine at Munyonyo and Shs. 45 Billion to complete the first phase of the Shrine at Namugongo.
Twenty four Martyrs were killed for their faith in Uganda. Twenty-two were beatified by Pope Benedict XV on 6th June 1920 and canonized by Pope Paul VI on 18th October 1964. The other 2 martyrs were speared to death in Paimol, Gulu in October 1918. They were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 20th October 2002. Government declared 3rd June every year in honour of the Martyrs.
The President contributed Shs.400 million and also launched the Mobile Money platform for the people to contribute towards the project. Over Shs.1.3billion was raised in cash and pledges.
“If 12 million Ugandans contributed Shs. 5000 each, it will be more than what is needed for the construction of the shrines. Namugongo and Munyonyo will be centers of heroism once they become developed,” he said.
He said while the killing of the Martyrs was unfortunate, it was an opportunity for Uganda’s heritage because it has watered the growth of the Church.
“Since this is part of our heritage now, it has watered the growth of the Church and by so doing, also watered political freedom in Uganda. This is part of our History, part of our culture and part of our characteristics in Uganda,” he said.
The President said the circumstances under which both the Uganda Martyrs and Heroes were killed was similar because Uganda Martyrs were killed for refusing to denounce their faith while the Uganda heroes refused to betray the freedom fighters.
The President noted that by refusing to denounce faith, the Martyrs made themselves special, unique and uncommon which is appreciated by the world. He said Ugandans should use this heritage to benefit the church, faith and the nation of Uganda.
He said government has given the Catholic Church Shs. 20 Billion in compensation for their land at Entebbe International Airport and will provide another Shs. 10 Billion to compensate for their land at Munyonyo. He also said the government will upgrade the roads leading to Namugongo Shrines.
The Archbishop, Kampala Archdiocese, His Grace Cyprian Kizito Lwanga thanked the President for inviting the Pope and said Namugongo is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region with more than one million Pilgrims every year.
The Chairman organizing committee, Prof. Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile who is also the Governor Bank of Uganda said the Pope’s visit will be a national event and they need a befitting environment to welcome him. He said the money will go towards constructing the sites that the Pope will visit and to improve strategic facilities to host the Pilgrims throughout the year. He said this has the potential to promote Uganda as a tourist destination and called upon Ugandans to contribute generously towards the construction of the Shrines.