Vatican Confirms that Pope Frances Will Visit Uganda
Uganda is preparing for a record third visit of a pope after sources close to the Catholic church in the country have confirmed yesterday that a papal visit was finally on the cards for 2015.
Local tourism stakeholders were swift to express their hope that the visit will coincide with the annual Uganda’s Martyrs Day celebrations which has gained in global popularity in recent years. Pilgrims from across the region, Africa, and the world are now coming to Uganda to attend the memorial services on June 3. Construction work is going on at the site of the Namugongo Shrine to improve facilities to cater to the ever-growing numbers.
The Martyrs Day celebration has also become Uganda’s main tourism event supported by the Northern Corridor Cooperation countries of Kenya and Rwanda. Their tourism boards now send large delegations to show their support for the national holiday which has become a signature event not only for the Catholic and Anglican faithful but for the country at large.
Only last week Pope Francis drew a world record crowd attending mass of 6+ million participants during a visit to the Philippines, and Ugandan government sources expect that the papal visit may draw at least a million people to the Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo.
The visit will give Uganda priceless global publicity, and tourism marketers hope to build on it as they go out to promote the Pearl of Africa. Said one regular contributor late yesterday evening: “If the country is safe to visit for the pope, it is safe to visit for anyone. There is no reason why people should not consider visiting us, and in past years we got a lot of credit by Lonely Planet and others. They singled us out as a great adventure tourism destination, and we indeed have so much to offer. The visit by the pope will be a catalyst for our efforts to bring more visitors to the country.”
Pope Paul VI visited Uganda in 1969, and Pope John Paul II then followed with his own visit in 1993 before the upcoming 2015 visit by Pope Francis which will make it three, an unprecedented number going by available records.