Uganda to Set Record With Third Papal Visit
Pope Francis has confirmed he will visit Uganda this year. The pope announced his visit during an hour-long press conference on a flight back to the Vatican from a tour of Asia.
The pope plans to visit Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay and France in July. He will then head to the US in September before winding up his 2015 programme with trips to the Central African Republic and Uganda.
The date is yet to be announced but it is likely to be towards the end of the year.
Pope Francis’ visit will make Uganda the first African country to host three different reigning popes.
Uganda was the only African country visited by Pope Paul VI during his 15-year reign at the Vatican. He came to Uganda in 1969. Next came Pope John Paul II in February 1993.
The only other African countries to have been visited by at least two reigning popes are Cameroon, Angola and Benin, all visited by popes, John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
Pope Francis’ impending visit to Uganda will be historic, since the land of the martyrs will host him even before his native Argentina gets a chance.
“It’s easier to organize a trip to the moon than a trip for the pope to Africa,” American Archbishop Paul Marcinkus told Reuters a month before Pope Paul VI visited Uganda in 1969.
The archbishop, who then headed the Vatican finance committee and organized the pope’s visits abroad, said the prelate had to overcome hurdles of government bureacracy, curious newsmen and local hazards that could threaten his health.
Like anywhere in the world popes go, security constitutes the biggest challenge. The 1969 papal visit in Uganda was most significant as it marked the first time the leader of the Catholic church visited the continent of Africa.
Comparing the two papal visits to Uganda, Charles Lwanga, a resident of Musigula village in Lubaga division, said that unlike the one of John Paul II in 1993, security was not all that visible in 1969.
“People were very free and even struggled to touch the pope’s hands and garment without any security official raising a finger. Most people manning the pope’s security were in civilian attire unlike in 1993 when the locals could not be allowed to come anywhere near him,” said Lwanga, who was 23 in 1969.
For the 1969 visit, some committees were set up. Internal Affairs Minister Basil Bataringaya chaired the government committee while Archbishop Emmanuel Nsubuga was president of the central organising committee with its chairman being Rev Fr Tarcisio Agostoni. The transport committee was headed by Engineer Zikusooka of the ministry of works.
Elsewhere, S. Munyantwali was responsible for the decoration of Kampala and all places the pope visited while D.M Orech of the tourism ministry was in charge of accommodation at Apollo hotel (now Sheraton).
Frank Kalimuzo, secretary of the government committee, ensured that a pipe taking water from Kampala to Namugongo was laid as Samuel Mulindwa of the East African Posts and Telecommunications worked on extending phone lines to Namugongo.
A school holiday was declared during the pope’s visit. Pope John Paul II visited more countries than any pope in history. He traveled more than 750,000 miles, taking 104 trips to 134 different countries. But before him, it was Pope Paul VI who made history. He visited Jordan and Israel in January 1964, marking the first time a pope had flown on an airplane and the first time a pope had left Italy in more than a century.
Earlier this week, Pope Francis made history of his own when six million people turned out for the mass he celebrated in Manila, Philippines. This was the biggest papal event in history. In recent times, it’s only Pope John Paul I that didn’t make even a single trip outside Italy as he reigned for only a month.
The pope’s security is a major concern because there have been two assassination attempts on popes in the recent past.
The first major one was in 1970 when Pope Paul VI visited the Philippines. A Bolivian painter, Benjamin Mendoza, attacked him with a dagger, wounding him in the chest at Manila airport as the pope walked down an airport receiving line. The injury turned out not to be so serious.
Then in May 1981 at St Peter’s Square in Rome, Turkish Ali Agca fired several shots at Pope John Paul II, two of which struck the pontiff who miraculously survived.