On Mission Sunday, 18 October 1964, the twenty-two Catholic
Martyrs of Uganda
were solemnly proclaimed Saints by Pope Paul VI in St.
Peter's Basilica, Rome.
The impressive ceremony with its age-old rites
and traditional pomp and pageantry was rendered even more colourful and
spectacular than usual by the presence of the vast majority of the
Cardinals, Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops of the Catholic Church,
gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. Also present were
representatives of the Government of Uganda, the Kabaka of Buganda and
other countries, and also over two hundred clergy, religious and lay
people from the land of the martyrs.
This unique occasion, when for the first time people of Central Africa
were to take their place in the glorious army of saints, was greeted
with a sound never before heard in St. Peter's, the pulsating rhythm of
African drums and other instruments, as the long Papal procession filed
into the great basilica.
During the singing of the Litany of the Saints, the Cardinals and
Patriarchs approached the Papal throne, one by one, to pay homage to the
Supreme Pontiff. Then, the Cardinal Postulator of the cause of the
martyrs, using the traditional formula, urgently, more urgently and most
urgently (instanter, instantius, instantissime) begged the Pope to
proclaim the Martyrs of Uganda as Saints of God. A secretary replied, on
behalf of the Pope, that His Holiness was prepared to grant this
request, but first called for prayers and the invocation of the
assistance of the Holy Spirit. After a pause for silent prayer the Holy
Father intoned the hymn to the Holy Spirit, 'Veni Creator Spiritus',
which was taken up and sung by all present.
Then, seated upon his throne, he made the official pronouncement:
'To the honour of the Holy and Indivisible Trinity, for the exaltation
of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian Religion; by the
authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul,
and Our own; after mature deliberation and frequent prayer for divine
guidance, and with the advice of Our venerable brethren, the Cardinals,
Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops of the Holy Roman Church present in
the city. We decree and define as Holy, and inscribe in the Roll of
Saints, the Blessed Charles Lwanga, Matthias Mulumba Kalemba and their
twenty companions. We decree that their memory be commemorated by the
Universal Church with pious devotion, each year on 3 June. In the name
of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
After giving formal instructions for the official recording of the Act
of Canonization, and for its official notification to the whole Church,
the Holy Father intoned the 'Te Deum', the Church's hymn of
thanksgiving, in which all joined. Then, before beginning the Papal
Mass, which was to follow, the Pope spoke of the respect and honour
always accorded to martyrs from the earliest ages zof 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 valour-and violence in prevailing is
vanquished, while valour 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. 'That the seed of the Gospel should find an obstacle among thorns in
such difficult ground, is sad but not surprising: but that 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
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.'