UGANDA is an obvious focal point for the Pope's forthcoming visit to Africa. Its recent history makes it a leading example of the renascent Church in the emerging nations, and Uganda could boast, even before the war, of the first African bishop of modern times.
It is all to the good that Papal visits far and wide have now become established practice in a comparatively short time. Not only has a notable new trend been established, but the present Pope has set the personal seal of concern for human life on each of his journeys.
In the Holy Land he called for unity; at the United Nations for peace; in South America for social justice. No other Pope has witnessed at such close range the merciless demands made, at different levels, on human life. More intimately than any predecessor he has been confronted with the problems posed for a universal Church, while seeing something of them for himself in their local settings. Thanks to his pioneering, future popes may be enabled to get an even more revealing look.
The coming visit is to a continent where respect for the origin of life is deep rooted, even if life itself is neither sacred nor safe in contemporary conflict. The trip is timely and Ugandans will not have forgotten that their ancestors, the proto-martyrs of Bantu Africa, were canonised by Pope Paul himself early on in his pontificate.
These famous martyrs are described, in the old Catholic Encyclopaedia, as having preferred death to apostasy. The new one makes it clear that their refusal to be corrupted into homosexuality was the true cause of martyrdom. The former reference book, moreover, refers to their having lived in the "Vicariate Apostolic of the Upper Nile"; the latter, not unnaturally, speaks of Uganda.
The Church, in other words, is growing up, whether in her territorial structure, global thinking, or ability to swallow the unsugared truth. Pope Paul's July journey, particularly if longer and more informal than predecessors, will set an auspicious pattern. The notion of the truly pilgrim Pope will, we hope, be reflected in the pronouncements of the future, as the Church grows in wisdom and in knowledge.