Martyrs Day: Organisers issue guidelines for walking pilgrims

Pilgrims at Namugongo during 2019 Martyrs Day celebrations. PHOTO/ FILE 

What you need to know:

  • The chief organisers, Fort Portal Diocese, which was selected by the Uganda Episcopal Conference to lead the  celebrations,  issued the guidelines.

The Catholic Church has issued guidelines to all pilgrims travelling to Namugongo for the Martyrs Day celebrations due on June 3.

The chief organisers, Fort Portal Diocese, which was selected by the Uganda Episcopal Conference to lead the  celebrations,  issued the guidelines.

Fr Charles Oyo, the chairperson of Fort Portal Diocese’s steering committee, told the Monitor yesterday that the guidelines will ensure better organisation and management of emergencies.

“Anyone above 16 years old [can walk],” states one of the instructions in a May 13 statement.

However, those above 16 must be in good health, and should carry some personal effects, including sanitary utilities, soap, toothpaste, and money for food, water and other emergency needs. “Pilgrims will take care of themselves before, during, and after the pilgrimage,” the directive on self-care states.

They must also have registered with their respective dioceses to know the number travelling, and carry a form of identification.

The pilgrims are also urged to be cautious of Covid-19 despite the country not having patients admitted in any hospitals [as per an April 18 communication from the Health ministry] and registering a negligible positivity rate.

The committee also instructed pilgrims to observe the standard operating procedures such as wearing masks and hand washing.

“Those who can seek medical advice before they join the pilgrims, if possible, it will be of great advantage,” a directive on health matters reads.

Upon reaching Namugongo, all pilgrims are expected to plan their accommodation, meals, and organise their transport back home after the celebrations.

Fort Portal Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert Muhiirwa earlier told journalists that they will mark the celebrations under the theme; ‘Baptised and sent to witness Christ with love and hope.’

Who has started walking?

More than 400 pilgrims under Lira Diocese earlier this week became the first batch to embark on the journey of more than 300km to Namugongo. Those from other dioceses are also expected to start the trek with those from Fort Portal, who will be flagged off on May 23 from Virika Cathedral, while Masaka Catholic pilgrims will set off on May 28. Pilgrims from Uganda and other parts of the world have been allowed access to Namugongo after a two-year suspension because of the pandemic. Previously, government restricted the celebrations to invited guests. International pilgrims are required to either have a PCR test done 48 hours before entering the country or have a vaccination certificate.

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