Jacinta W. Odongo – Kampala, Uganda
SECAM is the fruit of the efforts of African Bishops who during the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) resolved to establish a continental structure to unite the Church in Africa and promote collaboration in pastoral ministry. The Association was officially launched on July 1969 at Lubaga Cathedral during the visit of Pope Saint Paul VI to Uganda. Celebrating 50 years of SECAM in Kampala was a historical moment for Ugandans who live in a country recognised by the Universal Church as the land of the African Martyrs.
Successful Golden jubilee celebrations
During the SECAM celebrations, over 300 delegates from Africa, Madagascar, Europe, America, Asia and beyond arrived in Uganda. These included nine Cardinals, 55 Archbishops, 106 Bishops, about 60 priests as well as many religious men and women, several young persons, representatives of various partner-organisations and many other selected institutions. A delegate from the Vatican also represented Pope Francis.
In a country of over 10 million Catholics, hosting such a high profile event that brought together the Catholic Church’s topmost officials in Africa was a great honour for the country. These delegates spent about nine days in the country not just touring around, but also discussing pertinent issues that directly affect African nations at large. During the Plenary Assembly from 22 July to 27 July, the delegates tackled key issues on evangelization, human development, justice, democracy, peace, ecumenism and interreligious dialogue among other topical matters. They came up with pastoral strategies and resolutions to address the challenges at hand.
President Museveni attends SECAM Opening ceremony
On 21 July, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda attended the Opening Mass at Lubaga Cathedral. This was not only an excellent opportunity for him to meet the Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from across the continent but also for him to learn more about the Church. He addressed issues of human development, peace, unity, love and reconciliation, among other issues affecting the African continent. The President stressed the need for the Church in Africa to become a force that stimulates integral human development by promoting the social and economic welfare of people.
SECAM emphasises the model of the African Church as family
The theme chosen for the 18th plenary was: “Church, Family of God in Africa, Celebrate your Jubilee! Proclaim, Meet and Welcome Christ your Saviour.” This theme stresses the importance of the concept of family, which constitutes the domestic Church and is the basic foundation upon which every society is built. Therefore, hosting SECAM in Uganda gave a signal to African families and the rest of society of the importance of cultivating deeper family relations.
The inauguration of the Munyonyo Martyrs’ Shrine
Another significant moment of hosting SECAM in Uganda was the commissioning of Munyonyo Martyrs’ Shrine as a Minor Basilica on 29 July. Just a few days before the SECAM Golden Jubilee celebrations commenced, Pope Francis approved an application that was presented by the Archbishop of Kampala, Cyprian Kizito Lwanga to elevate Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine to the status of a minor Basilica.
Cardinal Robert Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Vatican, officially commissioned Munyonyo Martyrs Shrine as a Minor Basilica. Over 30 Bishops and the country’s Vice President, Edward Sekandi, attended the commissioning ceremony.
Apart from Munyonyo, the country hosts the Uganda Martyrs Minor Basilica in Namugongo and the Minor Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lodonga, Yumbe District in Arua Diocese.
Ugandan Parliament honours Pope Saint Paul VI
Also of great significance during the week of SECAM activities, was the passing of a motion by the Ugandan Parliament in honour of Pope Saint Paul VI. The SECAM delegates got an opportunity to observe proceedings in parliament from the distinguished guests’ gallery.
Land of Martyrs and Pearl of Africa
Uganda is well known for its hospitality and natural beauty; hence, the name ‘Pearl of Africa’. It is also known for its African Martyrs who were executed on the orders of the Kabaka (King) of the Buganda Kingdom between 1885 and 1887, for refusing to denounce their Christian faith.
Martyrs’ Day celebration, on 3 June, has become one of Uganda’s biggest religious events for both Catholics and Anglicans. It is also one of Africa’s biggest destinations for Catholic pilgrims