Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. In a homily given at the Shrine of the Holy Uganda Martyrs of Namugongo, St. John Paul II said:
This was the place of darkness, Namugongo, where Christ’s light shone bright in the great fire which consumed Saint Charles Lwanga and his companions. May the light of that holocaust never cease to shine in Africa!
The heroic sacrifice of the Martyrs helped to draw Uganda and all of Africa to Christ, the true light which enlightens all men (Cf. ibid. 1: 9). Men and women of every race, language, people and nation (Cf. Rev. 5: 9) have answered Christ’s call, have followed him and have become members of his Church, like the crowds which come on pilgrimage, year after year, to Namugongo.
…Truly the Uganda Martyrs became light in the Lord! Their sacrifice hastened the rebirth of the Church in Africa. In our own days, all Africa is being called to the light of Christ! Africa is being called again to discover her true identity in the light of faith in the Son of God. All that is truly African, all that is true and good and noble in Africa’s traditions and cultures, is meant to find its fulfilment in Christ. The Uganda Martyrs show this clearly: they were the truest of Africans, worthy heirs of the virtues of their ancestors. In embracing Jesus Christ, they opened the door of faith to their own people (Cf. Acts. 14: 27), so that the glory of the Lord could shine on Uganda, on Africa.
Here at Namugongo, it is right that we give thanks to God for all those who have worked and prayed and shed their blood for the rebirth of the Church on this Continent. We give thanks for all who have carried on the work of the Martyrs by striving to build a Church that is truly Catholic and truly African.
St. Charles Lwanga and companions, on this day of your feast, please pray for the Church in Africa, that she may continue to flourish.