Dar es Salaam (Agenzia Fides) - How is the Covid-19 pandemic influencing the life of the mission in Tanzania? To answer these and other questions, Fides asked the Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Tanzania for a short interview through Fr. Alfred S. Kwene, National Assistant of the PMS.
How does this time of pandemic question the mission of the Church in your country?
The fact that up to now the official statistics show that we only have 505 COVID-19 cases, may easily give an impression that the effects of the pandemic are not so much in comparison to other countries, particularly those in Europe and America.
First and foremost, we are very grateful to God that in Tanzania up to now we have not had a total lockdown, such that even the Church functions have not been closed completely. As the Church, the stand of our bishops has always been that the Church has to regard herself as a spiritual hospital such that the same way the physical health attendants (doctors, nurses, and others) still continue with their services, we should do likewise and if possible more.
Secondly, we have adopted a lot of restrictions in our liturgical services and the general life of the Church, including: suspension of the celebrations of other sacraments like baptisms and confirmations; suspension of the Small Christian Communities’ Meetings and those of the Apostolic Groups (including choir practices); limiting the number of people who attend Holy Mass and the funeral services (sometimes ending up celebrating the funeral services without Holy Mass); suspension of Sunday Schools and Masses for Children; celebration of the Holy Mass without involving singing and dances; insistence on time management during our services; wearing of masks during our liturgical services, having to wash hands upon entering the Church premises, to mention but a few.
Thirdly, other notable effects of the pandemic are on the economic aspect. The effects in this area are really felt at all levels, in particular at the individual, societal, state and Church levels. One can imagine, for the young African Church which to a great extent today depends on the generosity of its faithful, the majority of whom are poor, this situation complicates things the more. Taking into consideration that this year some areas have also experienced heavy rains leading to floods which have destroyed farms, this will similarly make things worse.
And in particular how does this situation affect missionary activity?
Since one of the measures in responding to COVID-19 pandemic is to embrace the social distancing, one can easily imagine how missionary work, which highly demands mobility, can be possible! Though in Tanzania we did not have a total lockdown, as affirmed before, but we have had to comply, to a given extent, with the social distancing approach. For instance, here at the Headquarters of the Episcopal Conference – Dar es Salaam, we have suspended all the annual meetings of the various departments which were to be attended by the representatives from all the dioceses and even limited the number of the supporting staff who come to work. Similar situation has been experienced in different dioceses.
How is the special PMS Emergency Fund for coronavirus victims working in your country? What kind of initiatives were started
with that Fund?
In response to Pope Francis’ call, the Tanzanian Local Church has already begun various initiatives both spiritual and material. In the first place, in every diocese there are many awareness campaigns going on so as to inform people of this challenge both at the local and global level. Secondly, we already witness the promotion of many spiritual exercises including: Holy Mass, novenas, divine mercy intercessions, holy rosary and even the composition of special prayers recited at different levels. For instance, one of these special prayers has been composed by the Episcopal Conference and is currently being recited in all the dioceses during Holy Mass.
On the material part, there are already in place several initiatives toward charitable contributions. At the level of the Episcopal Conference, every diocese has been requested to device a mechanism through which they may raise funds for this purpose and in the end send their contribution to the National PMS Office which has been entrusted this task directly by the Holy See. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 9/5/2020)