Kampala — South Sudan President Salva Kiir and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame are expected in the country today for the Pope's open-air Mass tomorrow, which President Museveni will attend.
Mr Okello-Oryem, the State Minister for International Affairs, told this newspaper yesterday that Mr Kiir confirmed his trip while that of the Rwandan leader was in balance following the unfortunate loss of his mother Asteria Rutagambwa.
"We are expecting both, but it is only President Kiir who has confirmed that he will here," he said.
Pope Francis will tomorrow morning hold a two-hour Mass at Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Namugongo, some 15km northeast of Kampala.
Organisers expect anywhere between 1.5-2 million people to attend, although the revamped shrine is unlikely to accommodate such population at once. The place will open at midday, today, for pilgrims to begin converging before it closes to the public at 6am tomorrow.
The Mass begins at 9:30am after the Pontiff's half-hour visit to the nearby Protestant Martyrs Shrine.
Uganda Episcopal Conference (UEC), the apex in-country forum of the church leaders, said the Holy Father is visiting to commemorate what is now the 51st anniversary of the Uganda Catholics Martyrs canonised in 1964.
There are 24 Catholic and 25 Protestants martyrs - all killed in late 1800s for defying Kabaka Mwanga II's edit to them to abdicate Christianity.
Both the government and UEC, which are jointly hosting the Pope as a head of State and supreme spiritual shepherd respectively, invited about 3, 800 guests from outside and within the country. Among the dignitaries are 1,300 government officials and the religious.
Lira Diocesan Bishop Joseph Franzelli, head of communication for the papal visit organising committee, last evening said some 40 bishops from the churches in Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo and South Sudan have confirmed their presence at tomorrow's Mass.
"We sent out several invitations, but certainly not all of them will attend. But 40 [of the] bishops have so far confirmed attendance," he said by telephone.
At the Protestant Martyrs shrine, the Pope will be received by Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali and unveil a commemorative plaque and then proceed to the museum where the 25 martyrs were killed and entombed. He will say a short private meditative prayer not exceeding 15 minutes and proceed to the Catholic Shrine at 9am.
At the Catholic Shrines, he will be received by the Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese Cyprian Kizito Lwanga. He will enter the Basilica for a prayer before celebrating the main Mass beginning at 9:30am.
According to the programme, the Mass will take only two hours but the public is expected to have assembled four hours earlier.
In the afternoon (3pm) tomorrow, the Pontiff will address some 10,000 youth drawn from Catholic dioceses, universities, and church-related organisations across the country at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds. Only those accredited will sit close and, therefore, have an opportunity to directly interact with the Pope.
The accreditation does not exclude other willing members of the public from attending any of the public events on the Pontiff's packed itinerary, officials stressed on Wednesday.
The Pope will later tomorrow head to Bakateyamba's Home in Nalukolongo where he will mingle with selected children, the sick, disabled and other vulnerable groups.
He will be accompanied by some church leaders although the venue is not open to the public, but they have been advised to stand along the road to receive the apostolic blessing.
In the evening, he will meet Catholic Bishops and priests at Rubaga Cathedral, a city suburb. This meeting too will be closed but the public has been advised to converge outside.
TIMELINE OF POPE'S ACTIVITIES IN UGANDA
- Received at the airport by President Museveni, 47 government officials, 30 Catholic Bishops, five Church of Uganda Bishops, and 1,000 Catholic faithful outside the airport.
-Proceeds to State House for a 25-minute meeting with President Museveni.
-Addresses 300 dignitaries, ministers, permanent secretaries and members of the Diplomatic Corp at the State House Main Hall
Note: No press conference or State banquets planned.
-Sets off for Munyonyo and is expected to arrive at 7:15pm
-Thereafter retires at the Papal Nunciature in Mbuya, Kampala's eastern suburb
-Arrives at the Anglican Shrine in Namugongo at 8:30am, and received by Church of Uganda Archbishop Stanley Ntagali and President Museveni. He will unveil a commemorative plaque and then proceed to the museum where the 25 martyrs were tortured and killed. He will depart to the Catholic Shrine.
-Arrive at the Uganda Catholic Martyrs Shrine at 9:00am, say a short private meditative prayer not exceeding 15 minutes and begin Mass.
-The Mass that starts at 9:30am will last for two hours strictly. Those intending to attend should have assembled latest by 6:30am.
- Addresses the youth at Kololo Independence/Ceremonial Grounds at 3:15pm
-At 4:30pm, Pope will arrive at the Bakateyamba Home, Nalukolongo.
-Arrives at Rubaga Cathedral at 5pm for meeting with bishops and priests.
At 9am, he will depart for Central African Republic. The departure ceremony will last for 15 minutes. Only President Museveni, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, Kampala Archdiocese Archbishop Cyprian Lwanga, Papal Nuncio Archbishop Micheal Blume and the Chairman UEC chairman, Archbishop John Baptist Odama will attend.
Source: Uganda government