Covid-19 again shuts out pilgrims from Namugongo 

Worshipers pray at the Catholic shrine at Namugongo on May 31, 2019 . PHOTO / RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

  • Only 200 representative pilgrims will be welcome to Namugongo and message of the day broadcast through radio and television

For two years running, Namugongo Martyrs Catholic shrine will not be hosting pilgrims because of the stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus disease. 
The Rev Fr Vincent Lubega of Namugongo Catholic parish priest on Friday said: “Given the coronavirus restrictions, we don’t expect pilgrims at the site. There is no sleeping and eating allowed like in the years before the coronavirus hit us.” 

The celebrations were not held last year because of the total lockdown imposed in March by the government.
“Unlike in 2020 when we were still figuring out what to do, we now know what to do this year. On the days leading to the June 3 celebrations, we don’t expect pilgrims to come here,” Fr Lubega said.

“But, in circumstances any pilgrims show up, we shall welcome and pray for them. Afterwards, we take them around the shrine in a controlled manner before requesting them to leave the shrine by 6pm.”
For June 3 occasion, Fr Lubega says Bishop Severus Jjumba of Masaka Diocese will be the main celebrant at the Namugongo Shrine. 

“All plans are already in place. We have invited only a few people, about 200 who will represent the other people in the country. The message of the day will be broadcast through various channels, including by radio and television to allow people follow the proceedings from their respective homes,” Fr Lubega said. 

Martyrs Day is celebrated annually to commemorate the 45 Christians who were killed between 1885 and 1887 on orders of Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda for their strong beliefs and faith in Christianity. 
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the main day celebrations would attract between 800,000 and three million people.

Public speaks out
Some of the people Daily Monitor spoke to say the absence of the celebrations have made them miss out on many things. 
“I miss coming together to pray, share life experiences and make new friends,” Ms Catherine Akello, a 40-year- old businesswoman, says. 
For some of the businessmen and women operating around the shrines, they miss out on the cashing-in on many opportunities. 

“I used to make a lot of money taking pictures of pilgrims,” Mr Isaac Kyobe, a photographer, who operates a studio just metres away from the Catholic shrine, says. 
Just like Mr Kyobe, those operating restaurants and other businesses said this year’s ‘scientific’ celebrations will not give them a chance to make a lot of money.