Pope to Ugandan religious, seminarians: 'Memory, fidelity, prayer'

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The poor and sick at Kampala's House of Charity

Pope to Ugandan religious, seminarians: 'Memory, fidelity, prayer'

By Devin Watkins and Philippa Hitchen'

Pope Francis on Saturday, November 28, held a meeting with priests, religious, and seminarians in Kampala Cathedral. Putting aside his prepared text, Pope Francis spoke off the cuff in his native Spanish, highlighting three essential points for the clergy - memory, fidelity, prayer - and seeking to strengthen the Christian faith in their country.

Firstly, he told them to keep alive the testimony of the Ugandan martyrs, not allowing themselves to become too comfortable with superficial memories of the past, but continuing to be authentic witnesses to the faith today.

Secondly, the Pope urged the priests and religious to remain faithful, following the way of holiness of the martyrs and being good missionaries. Noting that there are dioceses in the country that have many clergy and others that have very few, the Pope said fidelity means having a diocesan bishop who is generous in offering priests to a neighbouring diocese that is in need.

Thirdly, Pope Francis stressed that fidelity is only possible through prayer. If a priest or religious stops praying because he or she has too much work, he said, then they begin to lose their memory and their fidelity. Prayer means constantly confessing our sins, the Pope concluded, not leading a double life but asking for forgiveness and for the strength to keep the missionary spirit alive.

Pope Francis earlier visited a home for the sick, the disabled and down-and-outs run by the Good Samaritan sisters. Before greeting residents and staff at the centre, he visited the tomb of the first Ugandan Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga who founded the home in 1978 and was buried in the grounds there.

Pope Francis began his visit to the House of Charity in Nalukolongo by stopping for a few moments of prayer in the chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Africa. He was then accompanied by the Good Samaritan sisters to the tomb of the former Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga, who set up the centre and was renowned for his outspoken condemnation of human rights violations during the reign of former dictator Idi Amin. He was also instrumental in organising the first visit of a Roman pontiff to Uganda, helping to coordinate Pope Paul VI’s three day journey to the newly independent nation in the summer of 1969.

Today the House of Charity cares for about a hundred people of all ages and different religious backgrounds, from Uganda as well as from the neighbouring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi . The youngest patient being cared for by the sisters is an eleven year old child, while the oldest is a man aged 102.

In his brief address, Pope Francis thanked the Good Samaritan sisters for their quiet and joyful service. He appealed to all parishes and communities in Africa not to forget the poor but “to go out to the peripheries of society” to find Christ amid the suffering and those in need. “How sad it is”, he said, “when our societies allow the elderly to be rejected or neglected” or when the young are exploited by the modern-day slavery of human trafficking.

If we look closely at the world around us, the Pope said, it seems that, in many places, selfishness and indifference are spreading. How many of our brothers and sisters, he added, are victims of today’s throwaway culture, which breeds contempt above all towards the unborn, the young and the elderly!

As Christians, the Pope said, we cannot simply stand by, closing our doors and our ears to the cry of the poor. Instead, he said, our families need to become ever more evident signs of God’s love, witnessing to the fact that people count more than things, that who we are is more important than what we possess.

Sat, 11/28/2015 - 22:54
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