Pilgrims cleared to attend Martyrs Day celebrations

Fort Portal Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert Muhiirwa addresses the media at the Uganda Catholic Secretariat in Nsambya, Kampala, yesterday. PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA. 

What you need to know:

  • International pilgrims are required to either have a PCR test done 48 hours before entering the country or have a vaccination certificate. 

Pilgrims from Uganda and other parts of the world have been allowed access to Namugongo for this year’s Martyrs Day celebrations due on June 3. 

While giving an update on the preparations in Kampala yesterday, Fort Portal Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert Muhiirwa said they have been preparing for a kind of open blast for this great occasion.

“We have spent two years without having a big celebration because of Covid-19. We have been in touch with the government, the Health ministry, Prime Minister’s office and they have given us a go-ahead to celebrate because the economy has been [fully] opened up and the [Covid-19] numbers have gone low,” Bishop Muhiirwa said.  

“We have not been given any restrictions yet [on number of pilgrims that should be hosted] but we believe that since the economy has been opened, things are being done openly everywhere,” he added.
The development follows a previous two-year ban on the celebrations as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

During this period, the celebrations at the Catholic and Protestant shrines in Namugongo were held scientifically.

As per the April 19 communication from the Ministry of Health, there is no Covid-19 patient admitted at any hospital in the country.

Fort Portal Diocese was selected by the Uganda Episcopal Conference to lead this year’s Namugongo celebrations and to this effect, received a  communication from the Health ministry, stating that it is important that standard operating procedures (SOPs) are observed at the celebrations as a way of controlling Covid-19 cases. 

International pilgrims are required to either have a PCR test done 48 hours before entering the country or have a vaccination certificate. The PCR test detects the presence of Covid-19 inside the body. Before commencing on the foot pilgrimage, Bishop Muhiirwa advised pilgrims to be in good health and shape.
“If you are sick, don’t walk [to Namugongo],” he said.

Rev Fr Edward Muhumuza, the chairperson of the finance committee for the Namugongo Martyrs Day celebrations, said Shs1 billion has been budgeted for the celebrations. Half of the money (Shs500 million) will go towards Namugongo celebrations while the other [half] will be channelled towards renovating Virika Cathedral in Fort Portal.

Fr Muhumuza said President Museveni had made a pledge of Shs500 million while Shs200 million had been collected from respective individuals, companies and different institutions.

There is a deficit of Shs300 million which Fr Muhumuza said is expected from well-wishers.

A choir comprising 300 members has been prepared to sing at the celebrations, and according to Rev Fr Richard Bomera, the chairperson for the liturgy sub-committee for this year’s Namugongo celebrations, they have started rehearsing ahead of the main event.

The annual event pays homage to the 22 Catholic and 23 Anglican martyrs, who were executed for their faith on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga of Buganda between 1885 and 1887.

The theme for this year is, ‘Baptised and sent to witness Christ with love and hope.’


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