Mass Stipends for Priests in Tanzania
In January of 2014, the Catholic Diocese of Zanzibar in Tanzania celebrated the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Catholic faith, which was brought here by the Spiritan Fathers. Today, according to the Pontifical Yearbook, there are some 13,600 Catholics living on the two main islands of Zanzibar, Unguja and Pemba, making them approximately 1% of an overwhelmingly Muslim population.
Traditionally there has always been a good relationship between local Christians and the majority Muslim population. When the first Christian missionaries arrived on the islands, they were welcomed warmly by Sultan Sayyeid Majid bin Said, who told them: "You are welcome! My house is your house, my people are your people. I am your brother!" And today many Muslims greatly appreciate the fact that the charitable initiatives of the Catholic Church are open to all, Muslims and Christians alike.
In recent years, however, there have been growing problems with extremist Islamist groups. Bishop Augustine Shao, who is himself a Spiritan like the first missionaries, is concerned for the safety of his priests after one of them was attacked with acid on September 13, 2013. He survived the attack, but his face, chest and arms were left severely burnt. This was not the first such direct attack of its kind, but the fourth, in fact.
Bishop Augustine commented, "This fourth incident has really aroused fears, in me, the priests, the religious and the ordinary faithful. We are living like hunted criminals now. It is sad enough that not one of the attackers has been arrested by the police, and this despite the fact that this criminal act took place in broad daylight, in a busy marketplace!"
Thankfully, in facing up to the violence, the people have become stronger in their faith, and many of them have decided to live more consciously in the spirit of the Good News of Christ and to receive the Sacraments with still greater devotion. This year, as a year of Jubilee for the Church in Zanzibar, is a special opportunity for them to strengthen and celebrate their Faith. As a result, the priests in all nine parishes of the diocese have their hands very full, while at the same time they are striving at every level to promote and contribute to a harmonious coexistence between Christians and Muslims.
The Bishop of Zanzibar wants to support his priests in their efforts, and he knows that his priests share all the contributions of the faithful fraternally, amongst themselves. But he also knows that even this leaves them with barely enough to live on. And so Bishop Shao turned to ACN, asking for Mass Stipends for his 18 priests. Thanks to our supporters, we were able to pass on $7,600 to them this year in the form of 1,000 Masses, all to be celebrated for our benefactors' intentions.
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