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Protestants Follow Catholics’ Lead on Martyr Tourism as Pope Francis Visits Uganda

Image processed by CodeCarvings Piczard ### FREE Community Edition ### on 2015-11-25 18:24:14Z | |

Pilgrims walk hundreds of miles to swat at mosquitoes and dip their jugs, body parts, and even their babies into the murky water of a rectangular lake here on the northeast outskirts of Uganda’s capital city.

Millions of faithful Catholics show up in Kampala on “Martyrs Day” every June 3 from all over East Africa. They commemorate 45 young men—23 Catholics and 22 Anglicans—who died for their faith in the late 1800s as Ugandan political winds shifted. For this year’s observance, 500 pilgrims from Kenya spent more than a month walking 300 miles on foot to reach the Martyrs’ Shrine in Namugongo, according to the Vatican.

“What did you know at age 15?” said Jane Frances, a nun with the Comboni Missionary Sisters in Uganda, while on a recent flight from Kampala to Ethiopia. “At that young age, they were so brave. They were burned to death.” She attends the remembrance every year if she is not traveling.

On his first trip to Africa last week, Pope Francisvisited all three of Kampala’s martyrs shrines, dedicated to a group of young men who stood up to an unjust king and, in so doing, shook the conscience of the country toward religious freedom.

First, on Friday (November 27) Francis stopped at the Munyonyo Martyrs’ Shrine that honors the first three young men killed in 1886. Then on Saturday (November 28), he visited two other shrines that honor more victims: the Nakiyanja Protestant Martyrs’ Shrine and the Namugongo Catholic Martyrs’ Shrine, where he celebrated mass and urged Christians to remember the legacy of their spiritual ancestors.

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