The twenty-two Catholic Uganda Martyrs were proclaimed Saints by Pope Paul VI on Sunday, 18th October 1964, at the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, becoming the first saints to be proclaimed by this Holy Father on attaining his papacy, the first ever black saints from the sub-Saharan Africa and the largest number of saints to ever be canonized on the same day.
The ceremony that collided with the closure of the Second Vatican Council was extremely colored with the presence of a large number of Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops, and Bishops of the Catholic Church.
It was also attended by over 200 Pilgrims from Uganda graced with a new sound of African drums and other instruments by a choir of about 150 mobilized among the Ugandans living in Europe.
It was on this day that Pope Paul VI gave official instructions for names of the Uganda Martyrs to be recorded in the Act of Canonization, and 3rd June recorded as their feast day in the Holy Mother Church.
Pope Paul VI massages during the canonization.
The Pope spoke of the respect and honor always accorded to martyrs from the earliest ages of the Church, of the feeling of horror and awe aroused by the story of their sufferings and of the triumph of their victory.
‘Life passes away, but faith lives on. Violence is pitted against valor and violence in prevailing is vanquished, while valor triumphs in defeat.’
His Holiness spoke of the meaning of martyrdom and of the marvel that Christianity should, through the providence of God, have taken such firm root in a soil so ill-fitted, according to human expectation, to receive it.
‘the seed of the Gospel should find an obstacle among thorns in such difficult ground, is sad but not surprising: but the seed should take root immediately and produce strong and flourishing plants by reason of the good qualities of the soil, is a cause for joy and admiration.’
After a tribute to the new saints and also to the Anglican Martyrs of Uganda, the Pope went on to speak of the effect of evangelization which implants, in the Christian religion,
‘a new form of vitality which tends to release the spiritual powers and latent talents of the local population and so set people free, helping to give them a mature power of self-determination, and enabling them to express more fully, in their own idiom of art and culture, the special genius they have.’
Pope Paul IV’s tribute to the Anglican martyrs in his homily at the canonization.
“And we do not wish to forget, the others who, belonging to the Anglican confession, met death for the name of Christ.”