Uganda to repatriate remains of executed Christian martyrs


Uganda is to repatriate the remains of two “Ugandan Martyrs,” who were executed more than a century ago for refusing to renounce Christianity, a Church official said Sunday.

Twenty-two Roman Catholics and 23 Anglicans, mostly young men, were killed in 1885 and 1886 on the orders of the then king of Buganda, now part of Uganda, who was wary of the growing influence of Christianity.

They all suffered gruesome deaths — most of them were burnt alive, others killed with spears or knives.

The White Fathers, a Roman Catholic society also known as the Missionaries of Africa, sent the remains of two of the martyrs to Rome, where the Catholics were later canonised, while others were kept in Uganda.

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“The date for the return of the remains and relics is not yet set but most likely it will be in September this year,” Father Richard Nyombi of the Kampala Archdiocese, who is also a member of the White Fathers, told AFP.

The bones being sent back to Uganda are those of Charles Lwanga and Matiya Mulumba, Nyombi said, adding that they would be put on display at the Uganda Martyrs University along with artefacts including a chain used during the executions and a cross made from the mvule tree.

Their return will be part of the commemorations of the 60th anniversary of the date the Catholics were made saints by Pope Paul VI in October 1964.

A shrine has been established where the executions took place at Namugongo, a suburb of the Ugandan capital Kampala.

Namugongo is a major Christian pilgrimage site where often huge numbers of the faithful visit from across Africa and the world on June 3, the anniversary of many of the killings in 1886.

The martyrs included men who had served as pages to the Buganda king, Kabaka Mwanga II.

Some of the remains were missing because they were eaten by wild animals after their execution, Nyombi said.

The return of the bones from Rome will be timely, he said, giving the faithful an opportunity to reflect on the values of the martyrs at a time “Uganda is facing a number of challenges, economic hardships, moral decay and corruption”.

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