On 31 July 1969, Pope Paul VI landed at Entebbe International Airport and became the first reigning pope to visit Africa.

Among many other activities, the Holy Father made a pilgrimage to the Uganda Martyrs Shrine Namugongo. He also visited the Anglican Martyrs Shrine where he met with members of the Anglican Church of Uganda and then the civil & religious authorities of Kampala, before giving a final address to the faithful of Uganda in the Cathedral at Rubaga.

In his message to the people of Uganda and Africa on Thursday, 31 July 1969 at the welcome ceremony at Entebbe International Pope Paul VI said: –

“This blessed moment, for the first time in history, the Successor of Peter as Vicar of Christ sets foot upon the soil of Africa. We give thanks to God for this great favor, and for this new meeting with the beloved African people, whom we came to know, admire, and love, during our visit to this vast continent with the Archbishop of Milan, and also by the visits paid us in Rome by African Heads of State, Ambassadors, Bishops, Priests, and distinguished lay men and women.

Thanks be to God also for the marvels of His grace, poured out abundantly upon this land, and for the generous response of Africa to the Gospel message. To these, we bear witness by our pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Martyrs of Uganda, whose blood bathed the Cross of Christ planted by the first Missionaries, and brought honor, renowned, and the merit of love’s highest testimony to all of Africa.

Our prayers today rise to God that Africa may flower forth with all the riches of its culture and noble traditions, advancing with ever longer strides upon the road of progress, “attracted to adopt new ways of life, introduced by science and technology” (Africae Terrarum, No. 13). The Church, you may be sure, will not remain a passive spectator. Already Church leaders have exhorted clergy, missionaries, and all Christians, to collaborate actively in each nation’s efforts towards economic and social development. For Development is the new name of Peace, «To wage war on misery and to struggle against injustice is to promote, along with improved conditions, the human and spiritual progress of all men, and therefore the common good of humanity» (Populorum progressio, No. 76).

To all, Christians and non-Christians alike, may our coming to this Continent bear humble witness to our sincere affection for Africa. May our presence here, through the intercession of the Holy Martyrs of Uganda stir up that immense movement of brotherly love, which can transform the peace and progress of peoples from a difficult ideal into a glorious reality.

God save Uganda! God bless Africa!

Pope Paul VI’s Homily at the Shrine of Namugongo, Saturday 2 August.

“Most beloved sons and daughters, Christian Youth of Uganda! And you, venerable Brothers, Bishops and Priests! Men & Women Religious, Catechists, Lay Men & Women of Catholic Action! Christian Brethren of every denomination!

You, also, the Civil Authorities present here today, to whom we are particularly thankful for your courteous welcome and the honor of your attendance! Our greetings and our blessings to all of you! Be assured that we have all of you present in our prayer during this holy rite.

At this moment, it is all of Africa that we consider symbolically participating in this sacred ceremony, because we intend to offer it to Christ for all of Africa, for its prosperity, for its peace, for its salvation!

And to the young men and women, the catechumens, and the children here present, symbols of the new Africa, We now address this brief discourse in a special way.

I ask this question of you, beloved sons and daughters:

Why have I come to Africa, to Uganda, and right here to Namugongo?

I have come to do honor to your Martyrs. Here is being raised a Sanctuary to the glory of the Lord in their memory; and I decided to come from Rome to bless the altar of this Sanctuary. My intention is to venerate also, by this act, all those other Christians who have given their lives for the Catholic Faith in Africa, here and everywhere.

But, you will ask me, why should the Martyrs be honored?

And I answer you: It is because they have performed the most heroic, and therefore the greatest and most beautiful of all actions; they have, as I said, laid down their lives for their Faith, that is, for their religion and for the freedom of their conscience. Therefore they are our champions, our heroes, our teachers. They teach us how real Christians should be. Listen to me now: Should a Christian be a coward? Should he be afraid? Should he betray his own Faith? No! Of course not! Your Martyrs teach us just how true Christians should be, especially young Christians, African Christians. For Christians must be courageous, they must be strong, they must, as Saint Peter wrote, “be firm in the faith” (1 Pet. 5, 9). Your Martyrs teach us how much the Faith is worth! But, you ask me, is Faith worth more than life?

Yes, indeed! Faith is more valuable than our present life, which is a mortal life; whereas Faith is the beginning of the immortal life of happiness, that is, of the life of God in us. Do you know this most important truth? You answer: Yes! Because you have learned that Faith is accepting the Word of God; and whoever accepts the Word of God begins to live of God Himself.

Now, you may ask me: Is Faith enough, to be living in God and to be saved?

But you know your Catechism: Faith is indeed necessary; but it is not enough. Together with Faith, you need grace, you need the Holy Spirit, you need that great Sacrament which makes us Christians, the Sacrament of Baptism; and then you also need the other Sacraments, which make us live as sons of God, as brothers of Christ, as tabernacles of the Holy Spirit-which make us good and holy-which make us members of the Church-which make us meritorious of Heaven. The Sacrament of the Blessed Eucharist, the most mysterious, but also the holiest and most life-giving of all the Sacraments, gives us Jesus Christ Himself; sacrificing Himself for us, He made Himself into living bread for our souls.

Well, then, you may say, it is a fine thing to be Christians!

Yes, indeed, beloved sons and daughters, it is a very fine thing. I would like this idea to remain deeply impressed in your memory, or rather, in your conscience, forever: it is a very fine thing to be Christians! Pay attention, however-It is a very fine thing, but it is not always an easy thing. Look at your own Martyrs. They had to suffer for their faithfulness to Christ. One who is a Christians must live according to his Faith; then it can happen that his attachment to his Faith demands sacrifice-sometimes, it requires great sacrifices-but, most often, it only demands many little sacrifices made frequently; but these sacrifices are precious, full of noble manly vigor; they make life strong and virtuous, they keep it pure and honest, they turn it always towards love: to the love of God, which is the first thing we must do; then to the love of other men, especially those nearest to us, our neighbor, and so to the love of all human beings, good and bad, near and far.

So then, you ask me again, to be Christians is important for our present life, since it obliges us to love everyone, and to do good to all of society?

Exactly so, is my reply. The Christian life is of great importance even for our earthly life; it is of importance for all human activity, and for all living together in society: for the family, the school, for work; for peace between all social classes, between the tribes, between the nations. Everywhere, it promotes good, it demands freedom, it asks for justice; it takes care of the weak, the poor, the suffering, and even of its enemies, and of the dead. For the Christian life, when it truly has Christ in its heart, is like a fountain of goodness and love, overflowing on all sides in good (cf. Jn. 4, 14).

Perhaps you now ask me a final question; you ask:

How can we live well our Christian Faith?

Here, then, is how I would summarize all that I would wish to say to you:

First, have great love for Jesus Christ; try to know Him well, remain united to Him, and have great Faith and great trust in Him. Second, be faithful to the Church, pray with her, love her, make her known, and always be ready, as your Martyrs were, to bear frank witness to her. Third, be strong and courageous; be content; be happy and joyful always! Because, remember this always, the Christian life is a most beautiful thing! (cf. Phil. 4, 4).”

Farewell Ceremony, Saturday 2 August 1969

“Our last words on the soil of Uganda and of Africa are of thanks to God, Who has shown Us such rich human, religious, and Christian values in all the persons We have had the honor of meeting. Both Catholics and the faithful of other religious denominations have shed their blood upon this land in the name of Almighty God, so that today the national community of Uganda includes differing faiths which respect and esteem one another.

To His Excellency Doctor Obote and this Republic, and to all the Nations of Africa, We offer Our thanks for the generous welcome given to the humble Head of the Catholic Church; and We bear away with Us the vision of this immense multitude of human faces, demonstrating the universality of the vocation to the Faith, already announced to all Nations.

We carry also in our heart the sufferings of those who have no voice; and for them we shall implore that peace and brotherly help may heal their wounds, cure their maladies, and relieve their poverty. This appeal we address to all men of good will, and especially to those Africans better able to assist their fellow-citizens of this Continent.

Our parting salutation of respect ad esteem is addressed to the Heads of State of Africa, particularly to the Authorities of Uganda, and to the Diplomatic Representatives-all of whom have honored us with their presence, all of whom continue their Admirable efforts in favor of peace, development, and justice.

Our heartfelt gratitude goes to all the People of God assembled here: to the Most Eminent Cardinals, the Most Reverend Bishops, the Priests, Sisters and Brothers, Catechists, Lay Apostles, and all of you, beloved Christians and non-Christians! Our intimate union in doing honor to the Uganda Martyrs must persevere, and become always stronger; even after Our departure, you must draw ever closer together in charity, in the Name of the Lord!

Until we meet again, God bless Uganda! God save Africa!

From a heart overflowing with sincere gratitude, we call down upon al1 of you the Blessings of Our Lord.”

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