Masaka catholic diocese has declared the birthplace of St. Charles Lwanga, one of the venerated Uganda Martyrs, a national spiritual tourism centre. The Bishop of Masaka Diocese Serverus Jjumba declared Lwanga's birthplace at Birinzi village, Bukakata Sub-county in Masaka district a national spiritual and religious tourism site on Sunday.
St. Charles Lwanga, commonly known as “Karooli Lwanga” is one of the three Catholic Martyrs whose origin is Masaka diocese. The others are Bruno Sserunkuuma and John Mary Muzeeyi. For the last 50 years, Catholic parishioners have annually been making a pilgrimage to St. Charles Lwanga’s birthplace, to celebrate mass and to reflect on his strong affection and commitment to the Catholic faith.
Bishop Jjumba who celebrated mass with thousands of pilgrims that paid homage to Lwanga’s place of birth at Birinzi on Sunday announced that the place was elevated to a level of a national spiritual and religious tourism monument because of its great significance to both the history of the church and the country.
He noted that the area has now become a unique place in the life of the Diocese and the country, explaining that it is now going to regularly be used as a place of spiritual renewal for Catholics who wish to visit it for special spiritual connectivity to the venerated saint.
“There are other people on the other hand who may choose to come here for the satisfaction of their intellectual curiosity just to know who and where Charles Lwanga arose. They will be free to come here for religious tourism," he declared.
Lwanga, who is exalted by the Church as the patron saint of the youth and groups of Catholic movements in Africa was executed at 25 years of age, alongside 23 other catholic martyrs from the current Uganda Martyrs’ shrines Namugongo in Wakiso district after they defied the orders of Kabaka Mwanga to denounce their newly found Christian faith.
Bishop Jjumba observes that besides conducting an annual pilgrimage to Lwanga’s birthplace, the Church found it worthwhile to develop and promote the shrine for spiritual and religious tourism because of its national and international significance.
//Cue in; “ate ekifo kino…
Cue out….bawe emirembe.”//
Reverend Fr Simon Peter Kamulegeya, the Butende Parish Priest, says that after the declaration of the tourism site, they have now embarked on the task of developing it to make it more attractive and habitable at all times. He explains that they are going to put a metallic fence around the shrine, undertake major renovations, and expansion of a small church, which was earlier built in the area. He says that they estimate the work to cost at least Shillings 300 million shillings and they intend to do the work in a one-year.
//Cue in; “abantu abalamaze….
Cue out….nga weziri.”//
The place is located about 23 kilometers from Masaka town on the Nyendo-Bukakata road. Apparently, the prayer centre, which sits on about 5 acres of land, is surrounded by different indigenous tree species that create a naturally grown forest that has been preserved for several decades.
According to church literature, the natural forest is situated on land that formerly belonged to Lwanga’s parents the late Kaddu Mabingo and Gwokyaya, who were known for their African traditional worshipping practices.
In the same area, the couple had preserved an oversized Mvule tree, which they used for traditional worship. The tree fell down in 2004 and it was used to curl Lwanga’s sculpture, which hangs in Our Lady of Sorrows Cathedral at Kitovu in Masaka. However, its remaining trunk is still being preserved by the Church.