KAMPALA, Uganda - Pope Francis arrived in Uganda on Friday on the second leg of his Africa pilgrimage, declaring Africa the "continent of hope" and honoring Uganda's most famous Christians.
Francis arrived from Kenya at Entebbe International Airport, where Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni welcomed him along with a military brass band, drummers, and dancers.
Francis, who is also scheduled to visit Central African Republic, is in Uganda mainly to honor the memory of a group of Ugandan Christians killed in the late 19th century on the orders of a local king eager to thwart the growing influence of Christianity.
Those victims, known as the Uganda Martyrs, include 45 Anglicans and Catholics killed between 1885 and 1887. Pope Paul VI canonized the 22 Catholics in 1964.
"They remind us of the importance that faith, moral rectitude, and commitment to the common good have played, and continue to play, in the cultural, economic, and political life of this country," Francis told Museveni and other Ugandan authorities and diplomats at a welcome ceremony at the State House. In a break with papal trip protocol, Museveni didn't offer welcoming remarks.
Later Friday, a remarkably enthusiastic crowd, complete with traditional dancers and shrieking faithful, greeted Francis as he arrived at a shrine honoring the martyrs in Munyonyo, where they were condemned to death. Francis said that their witness helped Christianity grow in Uganda, and that the king's plot to "wipe out the followers of Christ" had failed.
Francis arrived in Kampala after a busy final day in Kenya that was highlighted by his visit to one of the capital's 11 slums and an off-the-cuff monologue to thousands of Kenyan youths about preventing young people from falling prey to corruption and radicalization to go fight with extremist groups.
In the Kangemi shanty, Francis denounced conditions slum-dwellers are forced to live in, saying that access to safe water is a basic human right and that everyone should have dignified, adequate housing, access to sanitation, schools, and hospitals. "To deny a family water, under any bureaucratic pretext whatsoever, is a great injustice," he said.
Residents lined the mud streets to welcome Francis, standing alongside goats and hens outside the corrugated tin-roofed shacks where many of the shantytown's small businesses operate: beauty parlors, cellphone "top-up" shops, and storefront evangelical churches.