What Samia discussed with Pope Francis

Samia Vatcan
Samia Vatcan

What you need to know:

  • This is the first visit by a Tanzanian head of state since 2007, when Mr Jakaya Kikwete toured the Holy See.

Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan met with Pope Francis at the Vatican yesterday in a visit underscoring the strong relationship between Tanzania and the Holy See.

The President is on a two-day visit to Vatican City, where she was received by Pope Francis.

The Vatican News wrote on its official X (formerly Twitter) page (@VaticanNews) that during the meeting, the two leaders also expressed their joint commitment to promoting peace in the world.

Quoting a statement issued by the Holy See Press Office, Vatican News reported that the discussions between President Hassan and the Pope were “cordial” and highlighted the “existing good relations” between Tanzania and the Holy See.

“In particular, they recalled the important role that the Catholic Church plays in the country in favour of the population, especially in the charitable, educational and healthcare spheres,” Vatican News writes. Attention, as the quoted statement noted, turned to the social context in Tanzania and “the challenges the country is required to face.” Finally, discussions focused on the regional situation and international current affairs, and both parties expressed their mutual wish for an “ever greater commitment to the promotion of peace.”

Following her meeting with Pope Francis, the President met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, accompanied by the Vatican Secretary for Relations with States and International Organisations, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher.

Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation minister January Makamba wrote on his official X page on Sunday, February 11, 2024, that the President left Tanzania for the Vatican, where she was scheduled to hold private discussions with the Pope.

The President’s delegation includes representatives from Tanzania’s Catholic Church associations and missions, including youth, men and women wings.

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 in mourning following 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 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.