Pope Declines Invitation to Visit Uganda This Year

Holy Father Says He Cannot Attend Jubilee Celebrations Because of Prior Commitments

Kampala, (Zenit.org) | 1183 hits

Pope Francis will not be visiting Uganda this year and as a consequence, the country’s bishops have delayed golden jubilee celebrations of the canonization of Uganda’s martyrs that were scheduled for October.

The Holy Father said he was very grateful for the invitation but due to prior commitments he was unable to make it, the president of Uganda’s bishops’ conference, Archbishop John Baptist Odama, said in a March 15th statement.

“On September 21, 2013, we sent an invitation through Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese, Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga to his Holiness the Pope Francis to visit Uganda and preside over the Golden Jubilee celebration of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs scheduled for October, 18, 214,” the statement said.

“The Holy Father did receive our invitation and was very grateful. However due to prior commitments, he is unable to visit Uganda this year,” read the communication, according to a report by Uganda’s New Vision newspaper.

“We have, therefore, decided to postpone the national celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the canonization of our Martyrs until further notice. We hope and pray that the Pope’s schedule allows him to visit us in the near future.”

The annual June 3 Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations will go on as planned, the vice-chairperson of the bishops’ conference, Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa said.

The visit has not been postponed because of the passing of a recent law enforcing harsher punishments on homosexual behaviour in Uganda, as some observers are speculating, but because the jubilee celebrations would have taken place on October 18th. The Synod of Bishops on the family will be still taking place then, and concluding October 19th.

Catholics and Anglicans celebrate Martyrs Day every year in Uganda in honour of converts killed on orders of Kabaka Mwanga II for refusing to renounce their faith. They were beatified on June 6, 1920 by Pope Benedict XV, and canonized on October 18 1964 by Pope Paul VI.