What you need to know:
- President Samia Suluhu Hassan embarks on a two-day visit to the Vatican, meeting Pope Francis and other dignitaries.
Dar es Salaam. President Samia Suluhu Hassan will hold talks with Pope Francis on Monday, February 12, 2024, as she begins her visit to the Vatican City at the invitation of the head of the Roman Catholic Church.
Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister January Makamba wrote on his official X (formerly Twitter) page on Sunday, February 11, 2024, that the President has left Tanzania for the Vatican, where she was scheduled to hold private discussions with the Pope.
According to Mr Makamba, upon arrival, the President and her delegation, which includes representatives from Tanzania’s Catholic Church associations and missions, including youth, men and women, will be welcomed by Pope Francis.
Apart from Pope Francis, President Hassan will also meet with the Vatican's Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, among other dignitaries.
President Samia’s delegation to the Vatican includes representatives from Tanzania’s Catholic Church associations and missions, including youth, men, and women.
Mr Makamba revealed late last month that the President would travel to the Vatican between February 11 and 12.
Analysts who spoke to The Citizen said last month that the trip would strengthen the provision of social services by the Catholic Church, especially in the education and health sectors.
The President will return on time to join fellow Tanzanians who are currently mourning the death of former Prime Minister Edward Lowasa, who passed away on Saturday at the Jakaya Kikete Cardiac Institute (JKCI).
He will be laid to rest on Saturday.
The trip to the Vatican comes after last month’s trip to Indonesia and will be followed by a visit to Norway on February 13.
This is the first visit by a Tanzanian head of state since 2007, when Mr Jakaya Kikwete toured the Holy See.
“In 2016, the late President John Magufuli invited Pope Francis to Tanzania. Unfortunately, the pontiff was unable to come that year due to health reasons. However, he has reciprocated by inviting Tanzania’s sitting Head of State, Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan,” Mr Makamba said in January.
He said that through the Catholic Church, the Vatican has been supporting the provision of education and health services in the country, noting that the Church owns 240 nursery schools, 147 primary schools, 245 secondary schools, 110 vocational training centres, and five universities.
Mr Makamba said that through collaboration between the government and the church, leaders and experts in various fields have been nurtured.
The Church also operates at least 473 health facilities across the country and thus plays an important role in the war against disease in addition to producing health experts.
The President of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Mr Gervas Nyaisonga, told The Citizen last month that President Hassan’s visit to the Vatican was important because Church adherents were also governed by secular leaders at the national level.
“It is also worth noting that some projects executed by the Church have been embedded in national development programmes and deliberations during next month’s visit should go a long way in improving efficient utilisation of resources,” Bishop Nyaisonga added.
Various institutions could be directing their resources to some groups and leaving out others in what could be described as poor allocation and utilisation of resources, he said.
Bishop Nyaisonga added that President Hassan and Pope Francis would meet the leaders of their respective jurisdictions and that the visit has nothing to do with religion.
On education and health services provided by the Church in Tanzania, Bishop Nyaisonga said the two leaders were likely to discuss hurdles that impede the delivery of services in the two key sectors.
“We, as TEC, have no agenda to communicate to the Vatican since this will be a visit by the Head of State. If it were the Pope who was visiting Tanzania, then we would have been in a position to state any challenges we are facing,” he added.