Pope Francis visits Ugandan shrine amid gay rights debate

NAMUGONGO, Uganda (Reuters) – Pope Francis travelled to Uganda’s holiest shrine yesterday, paying tribute to 19th century Christian martyrs killed for their faith, including for protecting young boys in the royal court from abuse by the king.

Francis, on the second leg of his first African tour, said Mass for tens of thousands of people huddled on muddy hillsides surrounding the soaring modern shrine made of iron and cone-shaped to resemble a hut of the Baganda tribe.

Twenty-five Anglicans and 22 Catholic converts where killed during the persecutions, mostly by being burned to death, between 1884 and 1887 on the orders of King Buganda Mwanga II.

The most famous of the Catholic converts was Charles Lwanga, a prefect in the royal court who was in charge of the boy pages and was killed because he tried to protect the children from the sexual advances of the king.

After their conversion they tried to spread the faith to other groups. Catholics now make up about 40 per cent of the population. Churches run many schools and hospitals around the country.

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