Pope Francis meets with Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, right, and his wife, Janet, in Entebbe, Uganda, on Friday. Photos by The Associated Press
Pope Francis, in Uganda to honor the memory of Christians killed in the 1800s, visits a slum and speaks out on the right to safe water and housing.
Kampala, Uganda — Pope Francis arrived in Uganda on Friday on the second leg of his Africa pilgrimage, declaring Africa the “continent of hope” and honoring Uganda’s most famous Christians.
Francis arrived from Kenya at Entebbe International Airport, where Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni welcomed him along with a military brass band and traditional drummers and dancers gyrating their hips.
Francis, who is also scheduled to visit Central African Republic, is in Uganda mainly to honor the memory of a group of Ugandan Christians who were killed in the late 19th century on the orders of a local king eager to thwart the growing influence of Christianity.
Those victims, known as the Uganda Martyrs, include 45 Anglicans and Catholics killed between 1885 and 1887. Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Ugandan Catholics in 1964.
“They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic and political life of this country,” Francis told Museveni and other Ugandan authorities and diplomats at a welcome ceremony at the state house.
In an unusual break with papal trip protocol, Museveni didn’t offer welcoming remarks.
Later Friday, a remarkably enthusiastic crowd, complete with more traditional dancers and shrieking faithful, greeted Francis as he arrived at a shrine honoring the martyrs in Munyonyo, where they were condemned to death. Francis said their witness helped Christianity grown in Uganda, and that the king’s plot to “wipe out the followers of Christ” had failed.
Francis arrived in Kampala after a busy final day in Kenya that was highlighted by his visit to one of the capital’s 11 slums and a spontaneous, off-the-cuff monologue to thousands of Kenyan youths about preventing young people from falling prey to corruption and radicalization to go fight with extremist groups.
In the Kangemi shanty, Francis denounced conditions slum-dwellers are forced to live in, saying access to safe water is a basic human right and that everyone should have dignified, adequate housing, access to sanitation, schools and hospitals.
“To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice, especially when one profits from this need,” he said.
Residents lined the mud streets to welcome Francis, standing alongside goats and hens outside the corrugated tin-roofed shacks where many of the shantytown’s small businesses operate: beauty parlors, cellphone “top-up” shops and storefront evangelical churches.
Those lucky enough to score a spot at St. Joseph’s parish erupted in cheers and hymns when Francis arrived, ululating and waving paper flags printed with his photo and the “Kariba Kenya” welcome that has been ubiquitous on the pope’s first-ever visit to Africa.
Francis, known as the “slum pope” for his ministry in Buenos Aires’ shantytowns, has frequently insisted on the need for the three “Ls” – land, labor and lodging. On Friday he focused on lodging as a critical issue facing the world amid rapid urbanization that is helping to upset Earth’s delicate ecological balance.
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