Senior Tanzanian bishop dies

 Bishop Emeritus Christopher Mwoleka of Rulenge Diocese in north-western Tanzania has died. He was 75. A statement sent to the Catholic Information Service, Africa, by Fr Joe Healey MM from Tanzania said that the Bishop passed away on Tuesday in Biharamulo, Tanzania. He will be buried in Rulenge on Saturday, October 19. Born in 1927, he was ordained priest in 1962. Seven years later, in 1969, he was ordained bishop. He headed Rulenge from then on until 1996 when he resigned. He was succeeded by Bishop Severine Niwemugizi. He is known within AMECEA (Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa) and beyond for his role in establishing small Christian communities (SCCs). Those who met him might remember how the late Bishop used to introduce himself: "I am Christopher Mwoleka, a member of a small Christian community in Rulenge Diocese. In 1976, Bishop Mwoleka exercised a major leadership role in drawing his fellow AMECEA Bishops into a commitment of the Episcopal SCC initiative, when the regional body took the corporate position that 'systematic formation of SCCs should be the key pastoral priority in the years to come.' Bishop Mwoleka played a key role as the Church in Africa made very deliberate efforts to develop a significant relationship between the adult catechumenate and SCCs. He called for prospective catechumens to participate weekly in an SCC as the first step in the adult catechumenate. Tanzania's Cardinal Polycarp Pengo, Bishop Method Kilaini and Fr Healey were scheduled to fly to Mwanza on Thursday, and then on to Rulenge for the funeral. Fr Healey, who worked with him for over 25 years, remembers meeting Bishop Mwoleka in Nyabihanga Village "dressed in dungarees and an old shirt coming from hoeing in the community farm...many inspiring conversations on the importance of Small Christian Communities when the Bishop would be 'on fire' with commitment and new ideas ... the bishop's simple lifestyle and his love for St Francis and Venerable Charles de Foucauld ... travelling by car to Bukoba with a group of diocesan workers." Another source who knew him said that besides establishing SCCs, Bishop Mwoleka "tried to enter into the real problems of his flock by visiting them, by establishing something that could help the poor people, without disregarding the rich. He believed that both the rich and the poor could complement each other, not only materially, but also in Christian living. He did not spend most of his time in the cathedral, or in the bishop's house; he spent most of his time with people. He himself participated in work in the fields, using his own hands." May Bishop Mwoleka rest in peace. source: CISA

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