ON Thursday this week, Pope Francis accepted the request of His Eminence, Polycarp Cardinal Pengo the Archbishop of Dar es Salaam to retire in accordance with the Canon Law, having attained the prescribed age of retirement.
The information also indicated that the Holy Father had officially asked Cardinal Pengo to hand over to Archbishop Yuda Thaddeus Ruwa'ichi, who was the Coadjutor of Dar-es-Salaam Archdiocese.
Cardinal Pengo has indeed fought the fight and kept the faith and he was a good leader with ethical principles and loved his mission as a good shepherd in the Church.
He was firm leader to both Church leaders and political leaders. Cardinal Pengo retires after serving the Church for almost 35 years as a bishop.
On August 5, 2019, he celebrated his 75th birthday in Dar es Salaam with a Holy Mass which was attended by hundreds of lay faithful, bishops, priests, religious and Government officials.
In his speech during the birthday celebrations, Cardinal Pengo expressed a number of wishes among them saying, he was patiently waiting to obey the Holy Father's will when he asks him to retire as a bishop. Secondly, he expressed that he was waiting patiently to obey the Lord when he would call him to rest eternally.
Thirdly, he expressed his desire to be buried in Pugu, the Diocese's pilgrimage centre where missionaries are buried. Pengo is a great man who leaves behind him a lot of success to the Catholic Church, as well as to the society in general.
He has built a good number of schools, dispensaries and Health Centres where people get services, irrespective of their religious affiliations.
I first met Cardinal Pengo in May 1992 at Saint Joseph Cathedral in Dar es Salaam where I had gone to verify a story I had covered in Arusha. The story was about the Catholic Diocese of Arusha, which was by then in a great administration crisis.
The priests, religious and the laity in Arusha were not satisfied with the then administration, so they were calling for the removal of the then bishop.
I interviewed all relevant sources and having written my story and before it was published I went to seek views of Pengo as a catholic scholar (By then he was not yet a cardinal).
We had a long discussion about the matter, and at the end he told me "The Catholic Church does not operate through the press. You are free to publish your story".
My conscience had made me contact Pengo because before studying journalism I had been a seminarian who had already done theological studies, and I left the seminary just a year before my ordination to the diaconate.
After a week, the story about that leadership crisis in Arusha was published in the Express Newspaper, and it did not take long time before that catholic bishop was fired and the situation in Arusha calmed down.
Cardinal Pengo is a man who has done quite a lot in the Church and since he assumed office, he has created more than 100 parishes in the Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam.
Some years ago, he declared that AIDS epidemic could not be overcome by relying exclusively or primarily on the distribution of prophylactics, but only through a strategy based on education to individual responsibility in the framework of a moral view of human sexuality.
In 2004, he also lashed out at the perpetrators of clashes claiming to pursue a religious cause. Back in 2000, Cardinal Pengo hit out at the commission of homosexual acts, saying it was one of the most heinous sins on earth.
I remember on Sunday 2 September 1990, on the occasion of the Apostolic Visit of John Paul II to Tanzania, the then Coadjutor Archbishop of Dar-es- Salaam, Pengo addressed the Pope the words of homage at the beginning of the meeting with clergy and religious in St Peter's Church in Dar-es-Salaam.
In introducing the Church in Tanzania to the Pope, Pengo underlined in particular the fidelity to, the love of and the passion for the task of evangelisation. On 12 April 1984 he spoke at the fourth General Congregation of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Africa. The theme of his speech was, "The Deepening of Christian Faith in Daily Life".
From 2007 to 2009, Pengo was elected President of the Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). In the past he has been a Member of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Affairs of the Vatican City.
He participated in the conclave of April 2005, which elected Pope Benedict XVI and in the conclave of March 2013, which elected Pope Francis.
He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by St John Paul II in the consistory of 21 February 1998, of the Title of Nostra Signora de La Salette (Our Lady of La Salette).
Pengo was born on 5 August 1944 in the parish of Mwazye, the diocese of Sumbawanga. From 1959 to 1964 he did his higher secondary schooling at the minor seminary in Kaengesa before he proceeded to Kipalapala Major Seminary for philosophy and theological studies.
Pengo was ordained a priest in 1971, then studied Moral Theology in Rome at the Pontifical Lateran University, where he obtained a doctorate in 1977.
He then taught Moral theology at Kipalapala Theological Seminary in Tabora for a short time, and then became the first Rector of Segerea Theological Seminary in Dar es Salaam in 1983.
He has been in Curial Memberships in the Evangelisation of the Peoples and the Doctrine of Faith (congregations), Inter-religious Dialogue, Culture (councils), Special Council for Africa of the General of the Synod of Bishops.
We should not forget that on September 18, 2012, he was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI as a Synod Father for the 13th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops. Cardinal Pengo has retired and he leaves behind some examples that we should emulate, especially putting aside tribalism and fight for the common good as Tanzanians.
We pray that God grants you good health Cardinal Pengo though you talk about your death and the graveyard you have prepared for yourself at Pugu area, but let me encourage with the following words.
The Catholic faith is rooted in the belief that God made us to enjoy eternal life with him there is a natural longing in the human heart for peace, friendship, love and happiness–for a life that is purposeful and worthwhile, and there is an even deeper longing, sometimes quiet or hidden.
This longing is to discover the ultimate meaning of life, to know the love of God, and to share in a destiny beyond the horizon of death. Cardinal Pengo trust in the words of St Augustine of Hippo, one of the great teachers of the Church who says "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you."
The Christian understanding of death is inseparable from the Christian understanding of life. It's worth summarising some of these key Christian beliefs.
In God's plan, human beings were created for holiness and eternal life with him. But through the original sin of our first parents, our nature has been wounded, and we experience suffering and death.
We are stripped of all our attachments to this world; our body lies corrupt; and our immortal soul goes to meet the Lord. We will see the whole truth of our lives, and we will face God's judgment.
Christians who have faith can approach death with peace and trust. There is a longing to be 'at home' with the Lord. They have the hope of eternal life and the knowledge that Christ has already conquered death by dying on the cross.
And rising from the dead and opening the gates of heaven for those who believe in him. Cardinal Pengo I am sure you know that when we die, those who believe in Christ, those who freely choose to accept the mercy and salvation he offers, will enter heaven.
However, some of these ("the Faithful Departed”), will first need to pass through the purification of purgatory, helped by the prayers of the Church.