Christians and non-Christians from all over the West Nile Region congregated at Our Lady Sultana of Africa Minor Basilica Lodonga for a Holy Mass to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the oldest Basilica in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Bishop Sabino Ocan Odoki of Arua Diocese who presided over the Eucharistic Celebration renamed two roads leading to the Basilica after St. Pope John XXIII and Fr. Sartori Bernado. The ceremony was graced by the presence of upto 10 West Nile lawmakers in the Ugandan Parliament under West Nile Parliamentary Caucus and pilgrims from all over the region, Kampala and neighboring countries of Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan Lira, Gulu, Kampala, Jinja and refugee settlements.
While delivering his sermon, the Bishop emphasized that a Basilica is a place of great honour for both spiritual and historical importance. “Arua diocese has received many blessings from the prayers that have been offered here, right from the founders, the Comboni Missionaries. Therefore we are all enjoying the fruits of those prayers. This place needs to be given the importance it deserves; The Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head whose image is placed inside the great Basilica of Lodonga is calling us to respect each other in the expression of our various religious beliefs. All of us Christians and non-Christians should look at Mary as Sultana of peace and unity. With her maternal care, let us join efforts to conquer the evils of drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, and disease especially COVID-19" He added.
Lodonga Basilica is the first Basilica in the Sub-Saharan Africa and fourth oldest Basilica in Africa after the Basilica of Our Lady of Africa in Algiers, Algeria (1875), Basilica of St Augustine in Annaba; Algeria (1914 ) and the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis in Carthage, Tunisia(1918).
Fr. Emmanuel Asega, the Rector of Lodonga Minor Basilica said that “the title Minor Basilica is bestowed to the church by the Holy See for some significant religious or historical reasons that are of importance to the Christian faith. Pope John XXIII raised Lodonga Parish Church to the status of a basilica on 26 May 1961 under the title Sultana of Africa. It is the first Basilica South of Sub-Saharan Africa and the first on in the country, Uganda.”
Mr Lawrence Biyika Songa, the chairperson of West Nile parliamentary caucus said the plan to tarmac Koboko-Yumbe-Moyo-Laropi road is already in process and that the contract has already been awarded with funding from the World Bank. He however noted that not all roads in the West Nile region can be worked upon. "All the roads in the West Nile region cannot be tarmacked but the local governments can also use the road equipment procured to maintain some of the roads using first class Murrum. As West Nile parliamentary caucus, we are going to make follow up on some of the road projects and work on them so that it's easy to access the Basilica", he said.
The LC V Chairman of Yumbe District, Hon. Asiku Mutwalib blamed some of the religious leaders for the misinterpretation of the Holy Bible and the Koran. “The misinterpretation of the Bible and the Koran by people who pretend to have internalized religion is the one thing that is dividing people along different sects. So I want to commit that in Yumbe district, upto 2026, this is not going to happen, '' said Hon. Mutwalib.