Catholic Archbishop Recounts Stories of Ugandan Martyrs “who abandoned the way of idolatry”

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Archbishop-elect Raphael p’Mony Wokorach of Catholic Archdiocese of Gulu in Uganda has described the story of the Ugandan Martyrs as that of “those who abandoned the way of idolatry.”

In his homily during this year’s Martyrs’ Day Pilgrimage, Bishop Wokorach said, “Celebrating on this Holy Ground of Namugongo where 13 of them were martyred is significant for us. It refreshes our way of being Christians.”

“The story of the Uganda martyrs, St. Charles Lwanga and his companions is a story of those who trust in the Lord. It is a story of those who choose the way of the Lord. It is a story of those who abandoned the way of idolatry,” the Ugandan Catholic Archbishop-elect said.

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The member of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus (MCCJ) who was transferred from Nebbi Diocese to Gulu on March 22 said, “It is unfortunate that the world of idolatry spreads like wildfire and that is a challenge, that is a call.”


“God, through the celebration of today, is inviting us to the bigness of thinking, where we see the need to live according to the designs of God and to be like Joshua who declared that he and his household would serve the Lord,” Archbishop-elect Wokorach said.

He said that the Ugandan martyrs who were persecuted between 1885 to 1887 by Mwanga II, the Kabaka (king) of Buganda took the word of God seriously. “We may remember that part of the trouble that they faced with the kabaka was because on Sundays they would go for their prayers and not stay in the palace of the king.”

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“The following of the law of God brought them into tension with the kabaka, their master. From the initial stage of their faith and in the lives of their martyrs, we see here and there how they embrace the law of God and made sure that one took prominence in their life,” the Local Ordinary of Gulu Archdiocese said. 

Making reference to one of the martyrs, St. Charles Joseph Balikodembe, Archbishop-elect Wokorach said, “We know he was the first of the martyrs to be killed, the pro-martyr among the Christian martyrs in Uganda. He was close to Kabaka. He was one of the great advisors of Kabaka.”

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Bishop Wokorach praised the courage of St. Joseph Balikuddembe, who condemned the king’s killing of Bishop Hannington

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The Catholic Archbishop-elect further said, “The courage of Joseph Balikuddembe is a light for our step in our world, more especially when we have a place of leadership when we take responsibility to guide others when we make decisions and policies.”

In his address, the Bishop also lauded Uganda’s parliament for its recent decision to kick out homosexuality and same-sex marriages that had been proposed in the country. 

He described the parliamentarians’ move as “big courage”, and added, “We know that the signs of evil remain rooted in our midst. How I wish the same policymakers could also take the same energy to shoot out corruption.”


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The Archbishop-elect Wokorach said, “Our martyrs are allied to our step. They don't tolerate idols. Their hearts were shaped by the law of God.”

“May the Uganda martyrs, through their gift of faith and love for their vocation as Christians, bless all our pilgrims here gathered today in Namugongo… That the grace that fortified their faith reaches every one of us, touches every one of us. May our pilgrimage, our work to this holy ground, not be in vain. May God bless all of us,” Archbishop-elect Wokorach implored.

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The Uganda Martyrs’ Day dates back to the first decade of Christian presence in the East African nation when 45 men aged between 14 to 50 years were killed by the King of Buganda between 1885 and 1887 because of their Christian faith.

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Among the 45 were 22 Catholics beatified in 1920 and canonized in 1964 who continue to promote Catholic life in the country and also play an important role in constructing a Catholic identity globally.

Namugongo shrine is a large property covering the site where St. Charles Lwanga and his companions, who included pages at the royal court, were burned alive by the order of Kabaka (King) Mwanga II of the Buganda kingdom.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.