NAMUGONGO, Uganda – More than 2 million people are expected to converge near a minor basilica in the Ugandan capital where Pope Francis will celebrate mass on Saturday; workers on Monday put in extra hours to spruce up the shrine.
The shrine is undergoing major renovations, including replacing aluminum with glass on its dome, and repairing the narrow road leading to it in the Kampala suburb of Namugongo.
"To receive all these people is not easy. You have got to provide facilities for all of them, for all the pilgrims coming from everywhere," said Vincent Lubega, the rector of the Uganda Martyrs Shrine.
Although work inside the shrine is complete, workers were planting grass at the entrance; the terraced pavilion where pilgrims will sit was still under construction.
The shrine, which holds a special place in local Catholicism, is dedicated to a group of Christians — referred to as the Uganda Martyrs — who were murdered on the orders of a local king eager to thwart the influence of Christianity.
Francis is expected to refer to the example of those martyrs — 45 Anglicans and Catholics killed during the persecution of Christians between 1885 and 1887. Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 African Catholics in 1964.
"We invited the pope to celebrate with us the 50 years since the canonization of the Uganda Martyrs," said Archbishop John Baptist Odama.