Every year, June 3rd, Christians in Uganda commemorate the martyrdom of 45 young men who converted to Christianity between the years of 1885 and 1887.
For the first time in many years, top officials from the Catholic Church have called off the event due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa, chairperson of the Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), a body that brings together Catholic Bishops in the country, the pandemic has affected preparation plans, movement of pilgrims and stringent restrictions on public gatherings.
In a letter, Bishop Joseph Anthony Zziwa further revealed that Masaka diocese which had been chosen by UEC to organize the celebration is unprepared.
“The position of Masaka Diocese should be understood in light of the fact that organizing the celebrations requires frequent meetings. It demands unfettered movement of persons. Above all, with the virus still alive in many countries including Uganda, it is not certain when restrictions on gatherings and movements will be lifted,” said Bishop Zziwa.
Ugandan authorities estimate that nearly 2 million people attend the event, at both the Anglican and Catholic shrines.
It should be noted that the Anglican Church (Church of Uganda), which also marks the day, has not called off its celebrations (yet), the Daily Monitor reports.
“We are still studying the situation,” said Sadiki Adams, the Communications Officer at the church of Uganda Provincial Secretariat.
Bishop Zziwa argued that even if the government of Uganda lifts the ban on public gatherings today, there would not be enough time to prepare for the feast, thus appealing to episcopal conference members to understand the situation and accept to postpone of Uganda Martyrs Day.
He stated that on a later date, the Catholic Church leadership will come up with another arrangement.