Pope Francis wrapped up his public appearances in Uganda with an address to the priests, religious and seminarians of the country at the Cathedral in Kampala.
In an off-the-cuff homily in the Jesuit tradition — brief, with three main points — Pope Francis reflected on three words: memory, fidelity and prayer.
The greatest treasure of the memory of the Ugandan people is the witness of their martyrs, the Holy Father said.
“As I said to the young people today, through the veins of young people and all Ugandan people is flowing the blood of the martyrs,” Pope Francis said.
“Please don’t lose the memory of this great seed.”
Pope Francis’ Nov. 27-28 trip to Uganda, the second of three countries on his trip to Africa, comes one year after the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs.
Saint Charles Lwanga and his 21 companions were killed by the king in the 1880s, alongside 23 Anglican converts to Christianity for refusing to recant their faith. They were canonized Oct. 18, 1964, by Bl. Pope Paul VI in St. Peter's Basilica.
“Ask for the grace never to forget but to keep alive their memory,” Pope Francis said.
In order to keep the memory of the martyrs alive, it must live on in the faithful witness of priests and religious today, he added.
“You are part of the future glory (of the Church),” the Pope said.
All clergy and religious are called “to be witnesses just as the martyrs laid down their lives for the Gospel.”
The Pope then reflected on fidelity, and the need for clergy and religious to be faithful to the memory of the martyrs as well as to their own vocations.
One way to show this fidelity, the Pope suggested, is to keep the missionary spirit alive within the country of Uganda.
“Fidelity means having a bishop that is generous in offering priests to a neighboring diocese that needs clergy,” he said.
It also means “persevering in one’s vocation, and I want to thank here especially the example of fidelity that I received in the House of Charity - fidelity to the poor, to the infirm, the disabled, because Christ is there,” he said, referencing his earlier visit to the House of Charity in Nalukolongo, Uganda.
The Holy Father then emphasized the need for prayer as the only thing that makes possible the witness of memory and fidelity.
“If a religious or a priest stops praying, because he or she has too much work, then he or she has begun to lose their memory and to lose their fidelity,” he said.
Prayer also means regular confession, to ensure that one is not living a double life as a religious, the Pope added.
“If you are a sinner, ask for forgiveness, but don’t keep hidden what God doesn’t want to remain hidden.”
At the conclusion of his address, the Pope called on the intercession of the martyrs of Uganda, and asked all those present to pray for him. He then led the clergy and religious in the Hail Mary.
The Pope will conclude his trip to Africa in the Central African Republic, which he will visit Nov. 29-30.