The annual Martyrs day celebration will be attended by only 60 people, this year. This is the only number expected at both the Church of Uganda and Catholic shrines in Namugongo on Wednesday, June 3 as the country maintains restrictions on public gatherings as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Most Rev. Dr Steven Kaziimba Mugalu has invited only 40 people to attend the annual prayers, these are mostly bishops from other dioceses. The revelation was made by the Bishop of Namirembe Diocese Rt. Rev. Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira during an on-site visit to the shrine on Monday.
In previous years, millions of people from within and outside Uganda, thronged both the Anglican and Catholic shrines to commemorate the martyrs, a brave group of young men who died while defending their faith.
At the Catholic shrine, christians start accessing the centre on May 25 when a Novena, which is often prayed nine days earlier in preparation for a feast or for a specific intention, is recited.
The earlier arrivals of both national and international faithful’s have also previously been observed at the Anglican shrine. However, a visit at both the shrines on Monday was like a walk in limbo with hardly ten people at the site.
Bishop Luwalira said that the church was allowed by authorities to hold prayers at the shrine but with very few people in order to observe social distancing, a recommended measure for taming the spread of the coronavirus disease. He advised believers to stay safe at home and tune into the different media where they will be able to join in the prayers.
“I have been reliably informed that His Grace the Archbishop of Uganda that we have been permitted to hold a service of very few people. The few people will be here from 9am to 11am. I would like to urge christians to stay in your homes and conduct this service in your from there in honour and commemoration of the Uganda martyrs,” Bishop Luwalira said.
The Bishop also asked people to use the time at home to explain to their respective family members about the purpose of making a pilgrimage to Namugongo to dispel the notion that it’s about worshipping the dead (the martyrs).
At the Catholic shrine, Rev. Fr. Joseph Mukasa said that they have invited only 20 people for prayers to be led by the Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.
He said that Masaka Diocese which was set to animate the June 3 prayers and arrangements will only hold prayers in their Diocese while other believers will attend through the media.
“As we speak now, if it were not Covid-19, there would have a big tent accommodating pilgrims, some who arrive three weeks earlier, but now if they had been allowed, then we would maybe have had so many problems. For now let us abide until when God decides that we can again come to Namugongo in big numbers,” Bishop Mukasa said.
In total, 46 martyrs died for their faith. They were killed between January 31, 1885 and January 27, 1887, on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II of Buganda.