The Uganda Martyrs were Ugandan Christians who were murdered for their faith. Most of the 22 martyrs were killed in a single incident, on 3 June1886. In the last week of May the new King of pre-colonial Buganda, ordered the arrest and detention of a number of men and women who had been baptized. On the morning of 3 June, those prisoners who had not already done so were given one final opportunity to renounce their faith. It’s not clear if any did recant, but at least 26 individuals, Catholic and protestant, declined. They were killed on the spot, most of them burned alive.
Far from suppressing Christianity in the region, the incident seemed to galvanize the faithful and spark its spread. Today, Christianity remains the predominant religion in Uganda and Rwanda. In 1920, Pope Benedict XV paved the way for future canonization by declaring “blessed” the 13 known Catholic martyrs at Namugongo, together with another nine Catholic victims of separate killings from 1885 – 1887. Pope Paul VI later canonized the 22 Catholic martyrs on 18 October 1964 during the Vatican II conference. To honor these African saints, Paul VI became the first reigning pope to visit sub-Saharan Africa when he toured Uganda in July 1969, a visit that included a pilgrimage to the site of the martyrdom at Namugongo.
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