- (Photo: Reuters/James Akena)
Uganda's Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, who has received criticism for her support of the country's "Anti-Homosexuality Bill", was recently blessed by Pope Benedict XVI on a visit to Rome.
"I think this is a moment that cannot be repeated. We have been reading about him, hearing stories about St.Peter's Basilica but now we are here physically," Kadaga said shortly after meeting the Pope, according to Uganda Picks.
"I think it is something that I will remember all my life. It's a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity," Kadaga added.
Kadaga was one of the thousands to attend the Dec. 12 service at which Pope Benedict XVI launched his Twitter account under the handle "@Pontifex."
The speaker of parliament was primarily in Rome to attend the 7th Consultative Assembly of Parliamentarians for the International Criminal Court and the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights, along with fellow Ugandan Members of Parliament Paula Turyahikayo, Elijah Okupa, Abdu Katuntu, Betti Amongi, and Chris Baryomunsi.
Kadaga has been criticized for her support of Uganda's controversial "Anti-Homosexuality Bill", which further criminalizes the act of homosexuality in the African country, including life in prison for some cases.
The new bill also prohibits the promotion of gay rights, including funding pro-homosexuality organizations.
Kadaga has previously said that she plans to pass the bill because the majority of Ugandans want stricter laws regarding homosexuality, reportedly because they want to protect the youth of the country from homosexual influence.
"Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we'll give them that gift," Kadaga told Reuters in November.
"Who are we not to do what they have told us? These people should not be begging us," Kadaga additionally told The Associated Press.
The bill initially included a death penalty provision for "aggravated homosexuality," but this provision was recently dropped.
Various international leaders have condemned this new bill, with U.S. president Barack Obama calling it "odious" and Pastor Rick Warren calling it "unjust."
Uganda's "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" has reportedly received a large amount of support from Ugandans and is slated to become law at the beginning of 2013.
Uganda is one of the few countries in the world where all homosexual acts are still illegal.