By Paschal Norbert
DAR ES SALAAM, NOVEMBER 21, 2023 (CISA) – The Catholic Church in Tanzania is seeking information that could advance the cause of sainthood of the founding father and president of the nation, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
In a communique dated July 25, 2023, Most Rev Jude Thadaeus Ruwa’ichi, OFMCap, the archbishop of the Catholic Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam issued an edict informing the faithful in Tanzania to present information, including all writings and testimonies regarding the Servant of God Julius Nyerere.
“In informing our Ecclesial Community about this, we invite all the faithful to communicate to us directly or to send to the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam, any information – both favourable or unfavourable – regarding the life and heroic virtues of the Servant of God as a Catholic lay faithful and father of a family, as well as his reputation for holiness and intercessory power,” the archbishop said.
Archbishop Thaddeus also announced that he had constituted the Tribunal for the Diocesan Inquiry on the life, heroic virtues, and reputation of holiness and intercessory power of the Servant of God, upon the request of Bro. Reginald D. Cruz, MAfr, the postulator of the cause appointed by Archbishop Gervas John Mwasikwabhila Nyaisonga, president of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) and petitioner of the Cause of Beatification and Canonization of the Servant of God Julius Kambarage Nyerere.
“We remind you that the word “writings” is not to be understood only of printed works, which have already been gathered, but also manuscripts, diaries, letters, and private writings that may reveal the spiritual life of the Servant of God. Those who want to keep the original can present a duly authenticated copy,” Archbishop Thadaeus directed.
The Servant of God Julius Kambarage Nyerere, a committed Catholic, family man and statesman, is regarded as a gentleman par excellence for his contribution to democracy, respect for human rights and peace in Tanzania and a Pan-Africanist.
Born in 1922 in Butiama, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) to a Zanaki chief. Nyerere was a convert to Catholicism and taught in several Catholic schools before joining politics. He was the first prime minister of independent Tanganyika in 1961 and later became the first president of the new state of Tanzania in 1964.
Nyerere was also the major force behind the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU; now the African Union) alongside 32 other African Heads of State and Government. He died in 1999 aged 77.
In 2005, the late Bishop Justin Samba of the Catholic Diocese of Musoma and TEC requested the Holy See to declare Nyerere a saint and providentially, in the same year on May 13, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI declared Julius Kambarage Nyerere a Servant of God, thus marking the first step of his canonization to sainthood.
Due to logistical and financial reasons that limited the diocese of Musoma from carrying out the process effectively, the bishop of Musoma requested TEC and the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam to consider a shift from Musoma to Dar es Salaam so that the process would be easily accessible to witnesses who are dispersed all over the country and beyond.
On May 2, 2014, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued a rescript that canonically permitted the competent forum for the Diocesan Inquiry on the Servant of God “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere from the Diocese of Musoma to the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam.
The dicastery also legitimized the change of the Petitioner of the cause from the diocese of Musoma to TEC and allowed the diocese to proceed with the rogatory process – seeking information, examining witnesses and ascertaining facts.
According to the Pontifical Gregorian University, Nyerere, a model of political holiness that is desired in the Church today, fought for human-centred development, democratized education and health care, and maintained a deep respect for human rights and peace in a dangerous and unstable part of the world.
“A committed Catholic, he regularly meditated on the Scriptures, attended daily mass, and even translated liturgical texts into popular Swahili, while actively engaged in interreligious cooperation and vigorously struggling for a more socially relevant Church,” the university said while inviting people to an international colloquium on the “Mwalimu” Julius Nyerere to be held on November 21.
“Critics raise issues on some of his miscalculations but admit that he led a life of integrity and simplicity, shunning the selfishness that marred much of local and global politics. Nyerere’s practical wisdom and prophetic witness offers a liberating critique and creativity not only to African church and society but also way beyond,” said the university on his saintliness.
If made a saint, Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania may be the first Pan-Africanist, president and politician to be beatified and canonized.