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Pilgrims walk hundreds of miles to join Uganda martyrs day Mass


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NAMUGONGO, Uganda (CNS) -- John Ole, 67, has a smile on his face, knowing he just completed a 300-mile trek on foot with hundreds of Catholic pilgrims to Namugongo from Uganda's northeast district of Arua to celebrate Uganda martyrs day.

It's the third time Ole has made the trip.

He said June 3 at the celebration that every time he attends the Mass, he experiences a miracle.

"The first time I came I prayed that I get money to start a farm," he said. "A few months after going back, a charity organization offered me three cows and five goats with which I started a farm. The second time I prayed so that God gets me an understanding wife because the one I had had eloped with another man. God gave me a very understanding woman," Ole said.

Uganda martyrs day Mass commemorates the lives of 22 Catholic converts to Christianity who were executed between Jan. 31, 1885 and Jan. 27, 1887, in the then-Buganda kingdom that is now part of Uganda. The liturgy occurs at the spot where some of the martyrs were killed about nine miles from the capital of Kampala.

They were killed on orders of King Mwanga II at a time of a three-way religious struggle for political influence at the Buganda royal court. The martyrs were canonized in 1964.

Police estimated that 2 million people attended the Mass under tight security. Apart from the Ugandans Massgoers trekked from throughout Africa, Europe and even the United States.

Among the travelers was Anna Atieno, 34, who walked from her home in Kenya, a distance of about 250 miles.

"God is great," she said. "I was barren and I prayed to God through Ugandan martyrs and I got a baby. That is why I have walked to this place to thank them.''

Twelve-year-old Valentine Were walked about 13 miles with his parents and others from their parish. He said he had asked the martyrs to intercede to help pass school exams marking the end of his primary education.

More than 30 bishops from throughout Africa and more than 200 priests joined Archbishop Emmanuel Obbo of Tororo, Uganda, in celebrating the Mass.

"Jesus died for us," he told the throng. "Ugandan martyrs died and became the light of Christ. They opened the door of believing in Christ in Uganda, Africa and the whole world."

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