Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the African continent from November 25-30.
Archbishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu ,Uganda has that said Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to Africa is a moment of both excitement and busy preparation.
“It is very wonderful, we are very thrilled in the country about the coming of the Pope,” the archbishop said.
Head of Uganda’s Gulu archdiocese and president of the Ugandan Episcopal Conference, Archbishop John Baptist Odama spoke with CNA about the Pope’s imminent trip during the recent Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome.
“For us, we see him as a grandfather coming to the home of the child…coming to see how this child is (living) the family life in his home.”
Pope Francis’ presence will strengthen the Ugandan people, the archbishop said, “giving us a sense of identity and a sense that we belong, and he is our father and we are also his children and he is guiding us to our ultimate father, God.”
The Vatican officially confirmed the Pope’s Nov. 25-30 trip to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic Sept. 10.
He confirmed the plans in a June 12 meeting with hundreds of priests from around the world participating in the Third World Priests Retreat in the Basilica of St. John Lateran when he answered a question from an African priest about when he planned to visit.
The Pope’s itinerary for the trip – packed with inter religious encounters and attention to the poor – was released earlier this month. He will be in Kenya first, where he will stay from Nov. 25-27, before going on to Uganda Nov. 27-29. Finally, he will be the Central African Republic, from Nov. 29-30.
His visit falls just ahead of the Central African Republic’s presidential transition, and just after the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs.
The Ugandan Martyrs were executed by Mwanga II, the Kabaka (King) of Buganda. Between November 1885 and January 1887 alongside 23 Anglican converts to Christianity for refusing to renounce their faith, and were canonized Oct. 18, 1964, by Bl. Pope Paul VI in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Preparations have already started for the commemoration of the Golden Anniversary of the canonization, with the local Church holding a diocese-wide conference on the 22 saints.
The Shrine of both the Anglican and Catholic martyrs at Namugongo will be Pope Francis’ first stop in Uganda.
After arriving at the Ugandan airport of Entebbe the evening of Nov. 27, the Pope will head to the shrine the next morning, where he will celebrate Mass.
In his comments to CNA News, Archbishop Odama noted how the country is buzzing with preparations, both on the level of the government, as well as the local Church.
While the government of Uganda is taking care of practical things that don’t necessarily have to do with Catholics, Catholics are busy organizing the Pope’s Mass at the Namugongo shrine, “where so many people will come with all the interest and enthusiasm.”
Archbishop Odama said that Pope Francis will likely encourage Ugandans to be like the martyrs, and “to follow the example of his brothers and sisters who died for us.”
Francis, he said, “is coming to encourage us in that one. So we look with great hope and are preparing ourselves. I think God will bless his visit and it will be a joy for us all.”