Mbarara (Fides Service) – “The seed of the Gospel, sown by missionaries in the heart of your fathers and forefathers has grown and produced many good ears of wheat. Your Christian community has grown like that of the first Christians…today we see abundant and precious fruits, such as numerous vocations to the priesthood and the religious life, many catechists committed to evangelisation, various groups and religious movements, institutes of charity work and education and above all so many of you who with responsibility profess faith in Christ and work to spread the Kingdom of God on earth.” This was said by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, on Sunday June 1 when he visited the Church in Uganda for solemn celebrations of the centenary of evangelisation of the Mbarara region. Among those present, the Bishops of Uganda and some from other countries who had come for the occasion, the Apostolic Nuncio, priests, religious men and women and thousands of local Catholics. “At the sight of this liturgical assembly, solemn, festive and colourful, filled with joy and enthusiasm, it comes naturally to compare it with the one celebrated by the first Christian community after Pentecost – Cardinal Sepe said in his homily -. Thousands of people had come from all over, we are told in the Acts of the Apostles, to listen to Peter and the other disciples. From various cities, villages and towns you too have come in your thousands to take part in this celebration, to meet the Lord in order to strengthen your faith so you may show it with ever greater courage”.
The Prefect of the missionary department then traced the steps of the evangelisation of this area: from the first mission at Nyamitanga Hill (today Mbarara) opened in 1902 by the White Fathers (Missionaries of Africa) to the development of the present day Christian community. “This beautiful reality needs however to be consolidated and strengthened” the Cardinal underlined, recalling the present day challenges to evangelisation and above all “the precarious situation in the north where people suffer because of insecurity and violence”.
Today the ecclesiastical province of Mbarara has 2,770,000 Catholics, 45.5% of the population of more than 6 million. “This reality makes us understand that the work of evangelisation has still a long way to go – the Cardinal Prefect said - There are in fact many millions of people who have the right to know Jesus Christ and to whom you must proclaim the Gospel…The call to continue His mission amongst these people is a sign of the great confidence the Lord has in each on of you”. Cardinal Sepe ended his homily with a call to mission to announce the love of God: “Go therefore, to your villages, towns and cities and preach this truth to whoever you meet! God sends you into the world to be signs of this truth!” SL (Fides Service 2/6/2003 EM lines 32 Words: 446)