2014-10-19 16:34:00

Blessed Pope Paul VI had a special place in his heart for Africa

(Vatican Radio) Thousands of worshippers today thronged St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for the beatification of Pope Paul VI during the concluding Mass of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. The Mass conducted by Pope Francis was also attended by Pope emeritus, Benedict XVI.

Pope Paul VI is being beatified thirty six years after his death in 1978. He had the enormous task of continuing the work of the Second Vatican Council began by his predecessor, Pope John XXIII,.

Pope Paul VI is credited with having initiated papal visits as we know them today. He had a very special interest in Africa even before his papacy began. As Cardinal Montini, he is reported to have visited several African countries among them Nigeria, in 1962.

One of his first major acts as Pope was to canonize the Martyrs of Uganda in St Peter's Basilica. Ugandan Archbishop of Gulu and President of the Uganda Episcopal Conference, John-Baptist Odama recalls the era with great fondness. “For the first time ever, the drums of Africa were heard in St. Peter’s Basilica when Pope Paul VI canonized the Martyrs of Uganda…. It was a wonderful thing for Africa and for the world to behold,” Archbishop Odama said.

According to Archbishop Odama, after the canonization of the Martyrs of Uganda, Pope Paul VI wanted to go and venerate them in their land hence the visit to Uganda in 1969. He would be the first Pope to visit Africa.

“I had just started my training as a major seminary student of Philosophy. For me it was as if heaven had come on earth….although travel was difficult in those days, many people travelled distances to come and see the Pope. They walked…. some from my diocese walked 300 Kilometres to come to Kampala (the capital of Uganda). Others walked all the way from Kenya and many other African countries.” Bishop Odama recalls.

Bishop Odama also remembers that it was in Kampala’s Lubaga Cathedral that Pope Paul VI, issued that now important statement: "Africans, be missionaries to yourselves."  According to Archbishop Odama, this statement was made in light of the inauguration of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM) by Pope Paul VI, during the apostolic visit. Archbishop Odama believes that Africa has by and large not fully lived up to that statement.

“We have not fully lived up to that statement although some Bishops and dioceses have tried… Pope Paul VI wanted Africans to share more of their personnel and resources for evangelization through the newly founded association of SECAM. In light of the Beatification, we need to revisit this statement and see how we can implement it. It is homework that Africa still needs to implement.” Archbishop Odama emphasizes.

SECAM was established in 1969 intended to preserve and foster communion, collaboration and joint action among all the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and the adjacent Islands. Its secretariat is in Ghana.

Archbishop Odama, a well-known advocate for peace in his country Uganda, has received several peace awards for his work. It is not surprising that he holds dear the encyclical written by Pope Paul VI “Populorum progressio” on the topic of "the development of peoples." He says that it is a document that Africa needs to reread.

Listen below to Archbishop Odama as he discusses the beatification of Paul VI, on Vatican Radio, with Fr. Paul Samasumo the head of the English Service for Africa. 


All the contents on this site are copyrighted ©.