National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  August 15, 2003

Vatican document marks feast of Ugandan martyrs who refused advances

By John Norton
Catholic News Service
Vatican City

The Vatican’s new document opposing legal recognition of same-sex unions bears the date June 3, the memorial of 19th-century Ugandan martyrs killed for refusing a king’s homosexual advances.

A Vatican official told Catholic News Service that the dates on Vatican documents usually are carefully selected for their significance, but he declined to comment specifically on the new text.

The 12-page document, prepared by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and officially released July 31, called on lawmakers to resist a growing worldwide movement to grant legal recognition to gay unions, calling such measures contrary to human nature and ultimately harmful to society.

The last page of the document bears a signing date of June 3, “memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and his companions, martyrs.”

St. Charles and 21 other martyrs, ranging in age from 14 to 30, were young officials and pages in the court of King Mwanga, who had a predilection for sex with young men. According to a brief biography on the Vatican’s Web site, the king killed them when “they refused, because of their faith in Christ, to yield to the king’s filthy desires.”

Killed in 1885 and 1886, some of the martyrs were run through with spears; the others, including St. Charles, who was head of the pages and protected them from the king’s advances, were burned to death.

St. Charles was named patron saint of young people. During a trip to Uganda in 1993, Pope John Paul II visited a shrine to the martyrs, who are considered the first from sub-Saharan Africa.

National Catholic Reporter, August 15, 2003

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