Catholic church cancels Martyrs Day celebrations amid COVID-19 pandemic fears

Kampala – As Uganda holds its fort in the fight against the deadly novel coronavirus, Uganda Episcopal Conference has announced the cancellation this year’s Uganda Martyrs Day celebrations.

In an April 29 letter written to the Bishops, Cardinal, and Monsignors (Msgr), the Chairman of the Episcopal Conference, Rt. Rev. Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa confirmed the decision to cancel the celebration citing efforts by the Church to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic

This follows a communication by Rt. Rev. Serverus Jjumba, the Bishop for Masaka Diocese – the lead celebrants of this year’s Martyrs Day celebrations at Namugongo Martyrs Site, citing that the diocese was not in a position to proceed.

“The position of Masaka Diocese should be understood in light with the fact that organizing the celebration at Namugongo requires frequent meetings involving several people, including government’s security agencies. Further, it demands unfettered movement of persons participating in the organization of the events,” Bishop Zziwa said

The Chairman of the Episcopal Conference affirmed that with the virus still alive in many countries; Uganda inclusive, the diocese was uncertain when the suspension of on gathering and movement will be lifted.

“In view of the above difficulties and uncertainty, I trust that you understand the situation and accept to postpone the Uganda Martyrs Day which was supposed to be held in May and June 2020. The conference will come up with another arrangement,” Bishop Zziwa said

He also argues that even if the government of Uganda were to lift the ban today, there would not be enough time frame to prepare for the events.

Held on June 3, the highly anticipated annual celebration bring together thousands of Catholic pilgrims from around the world to gather at Namugongo in celebration of Martyrs Day,

This is in celebration of 20 Catholics converts who were executed 125 years ago on the instructions of King Mwanga of Buganda.

At least 20 Anglican converts were also executed by the king, who allegedly took offence to the conversion of his subjects.

The Remembrance Day for the deaths of the Catholics took a global dimension after the Vatican beatified the martyrs in 1920 and later canonised them in 1964.

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