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This week in History: Saint Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe

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Saint Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe

Joseph Mukasa Balikuddembe was a Ugandan Catholic martyr and the majordomo at the court of Mwanga II of Buganda and is recognized as a saint by the Catholic Church.


He was born in 1860 in Buganda and died on November 1885 in Nakivubo.

He was Beatified in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV and Canonized on 18 October 1964 by Pope Paul VI at the major shrine, Basilica Church of the Uganda Martyrs, Namugongo.

His Feast day is 3 June.

A member of the Muganda tribe, in about 1874, when he was fourteen, Balikuddembe was presented to King Mutesa I to be one of his many royal pages. Balikuddembe was a personal attendant on King Mutesa I and Majordomo under King Mwanga II. The Missionaries of Our Lady of Africa came to Uganda in 1879. Balikuddembe was enrolled as a catechumen in the following year and along with Andrew Kaggwa, was baptized by Père Simon Lourdel M.Afr. (Fr. Mapera) on 30 April 1882.[1] Balikuddembe took the baptismal name of “Joseph”.[2]

From November 1882 to July 1885 the Catholic missionaries, for reasons of security, abandoned the Ugandan mission and re-located temporarily to the southern end of Lake Victoria. In the absence of the missionaries, Balikuddembe became leader of the Christians.[2]

King Mutesa was succeeded by his eighteen-year-old son, Danieri Mwanga II. Early in his reign, the new king began to crack down on Christian missionariesand converts in his country, and executed the BritishAnglican bishop James Hannington and his companions on October 29, 1885, ignoring Balikuddembe’s pleas to spare the bishop. Godfrey Muwonge attributes this to the influence of Mwanga’s Katikkiro (Prime Minister) Mukasa, who sought to control the spread of Christianity in Buganda by eliminating its teachers.[3]

Another reason that Mwanga killed Balikuddembe was because he spoke out against Mwanga’s homosexual practices.[4] As catechumens, the recent converts could no longer engage in activities which they saw as unchristian. Mwanga saw this as insubordination.[5]

As Mwanga’s senior adviser, Balikuddembe spoke against the killing of the bishop. Mwanga viewed this a disrespectful. After a night-long interview the king condemned Balikuddembe to death. Muwonge says that the Katikkiro Musaka saw to it that the order was carried out before the king could change his mind.[3]On 15 November 1885 Balikuddembe was taken to a place near the Nakivubo river where he was beheaded and his body thrown onto a pile of burning firewood.[2] His duties were assumed by the young catechist Charles Lwanga.

—— AUTO – GENERATED; Published (Halifax Canada Time AST) on: November 11, 2019 at 12:17PM

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