Ugandan Ministry Receives Inaugural St. John Paul II Award

Author: General Administration

Ugandan Ministry Receives Inaugural St. John Paul II Award

In a moment of great pride for our Congregation Fr. Leonard Olobo, C.S.C., a member of the Province of East Africa, accepted the inaugural St. John Paul II Award on behalf of the John Paul II Justice and Peace Center (JPIIJPC) in Kampania, Uganda, at a ceremony in the Apostolic Palace on May 22, 2024. Fr. Olobo serves as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Center.

The award, given by the Vatican’s John Paul II Foundation, was established to recognize organizations or individuals that “in their scientific, cultural and social activities, make use of the teaching or inspiration of St. John Paul II and contribute to the promotion of his heritage.”

The JPIIJPC was founded in 2007 by seven missionary congregations—Congregation of Holy Cross, Comboni Missionaries, Comboni Missionary Sisters, Mill Hill Missionaries, Missionaries of Africa, Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa, and Society of Jesus—that came together to respond to the devastation that came from over two decades of war in Uganda. Inspired by St. John Paul II’s 1995 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, the JPIIJPC seeks to put into practice the social teaching of the Church. Its projects have focused on helping victims and those suffering from war, human trafficking, climate change, and poverty in various rural communities in Uganda.

Read more about the John Paul II Foundation

Ugandan Ministry Receives Inaugural St. John Paul II Award

Earlier on the same day the award ceremony, Fr. Olobo had a private audience with Pope Francis, in which they spoke about the work of the Center and wider efforts for justice and peace in Africa.

The award ceremony was held in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace. Fr. Olobo was accompanied by Br. Adolf Mugume, C.S.C., Director of Communications for the Congregation. Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski, Head of the John Paul II Vatican Foundation, opened the ceremony. His Eminence Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, presented the winner. His Eminence Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State of the Holy See, gave the diploma and statuette to Fr. Olobo.

In accepting the award on behalf of the JPIIJPC, Fr. Olobo said, “Let us pray and act to continue the legacy of John Paul II for social justice in Uganda and other countries.” He echoed those same sentiments in several interviews with the press, stating that the Center will “continue promoting human dignity with renewed energy.”

Ugandan Ministry Receives Inaugural St. John Paul II Award

The work of Fr. Olobo and the Congregation’s Province of East Africa with the JPIIJPC is a powerful illustration of the Holy Cross’s preferential option for the poor, which is one of two mission priorities of the Congregation.

As the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross state: “We stand with the poor and the afflicted because only from there can we appeal as Jesus did for the conversion and the deliverance of all. The mission is not simple, for the impoverishments we would relieve are not simple. There are networks of privilege, prejudice, and power so commonplace that often neither oppressors nor victims are aware of them. We must be aware and also understanding by reason of fellowship with the impoverished and by reason of patient learning. For the kingdom to come in this world, disciples must have the competence to see and the courage to act” (2:13-4).