Mozambique, The Catholic Church in
MOZAMBIQUE, THE CATHOLIC CHURCH IN
The Republic of Mozambique is located in southeastern africa and is bordered by the Indian Ocean on the east, the Republic of South Africa and Swaziland on the south and southeast, Zimbabwe and Zambia on the west, Malawi on the northwest and Tanzania on the north. The region, with its tropical climate, contains a low coastal region that rises to central uplands, with high plateaus in the northwest and mountains at its western border. Natural resources include coal, titanium, natural gas and hydropower, while agricultural products consist of cotton, cashew nuts, sugar cane, tea, copra, coconuts and citrus.
After its discovery by Vasco da Gama in 1498, Mozambique served as a way station for the Portuguese en route to India around the Cape of Good Hope. Later it was a source of slaves for Brazil. Its boundaries were definitely established only in 1891. In 1951 it became an overseas province of Portugal and in 1975 gained full independence. The massive emigration of the Portuguese elite, a drought and civil war resulted in the region being considered one of the poorest nations in Africa by the early 1990s. However, the fall of Mozambique's Marxist government, Great Britain's decision to cancel some of the Mozambique's debt and the privatization of industry bolstered the sagging economy, attracting foreign investments. Despite increasing economic stability, the high illiteracy rate and the human toll from AIDS caused the standard of living to suffer; by 2000 the average life expectancy of a Mozambican was 37 years of age.
Early History. Portuguese Jesuits initiated mission activity in the 16th century, and Gonçalo da silveira, SJ, was martyred in 1561 after baptizing the rulers of Monomotapa and 300 persons in the court. Portuguese territories in the region were attached to the See of goa in India, until 1612 when they formed a separate prelature nullius. The Dominicans, who had entered the area in 1577, evangelized the Monomotapa region, whose king was baptized in 1652. After many isolated efforts, a sustained missionary presence was established in the 17th century when the Dominicans, the Jesuits and the Augustinians worked on the southern coast and up the Zambezi. Quelimane, Sena and Tete developed into important centers; even Zumbo, near the Zambian border, was reached and maintained well into the 19th century. A decline of the
mission during the 18th century was accelerated by the anti-Jesuit policies of the Marquis de pombal. Portugal's suppression of religious orders in 1834 made the situation worse and by 1855 no missionaries remained.
A change for the better occurred in 1881 when the Jesuits resumed their work. They were joined by the Franciscans in 1898, and by 1910 there were 71 missionaries, mostly Portuguese. The mission again suffered from the extreme anticlericalism of Portuguese regimes between 1910 and 1925, but the Concordat and the Missionary Statute with the Holy See in 1940 resulted in progress and the creation of the hierarchy. The number of Catholics rose from 4,000 in 1900 to 60,000 in 1936, and to 850,000 in 1960. Archbishop Teódosio de Gouveia of Lourenço Marques received the red hat in 1940, the first prelate south of the Sahara ever to be named cardinal.
The 1940 concordat, while strengthening the Church, did little to extricate the Church from the repressions of colonialism. Missions were funded by the state to the degree to which they served colonial interests. Generous financial help for religious orders, including the payment of salaries, free overseas passages, special status for bishops who enjoyed privileges similar to state governors and authority for all primary education were some of the rewards for the Church's subservience to Portugal's "civilizing mission." Internally, the Mozambican Church appeared very much as a faithful copy of religion as practiced and organized in Portugal. Many a missionary never bothered to learn a local African language. Small efforts were made to inculturate the liturgy, catechetics and pastoral methods (see inculturation, theology of). The Church's leadership remained decidedly Portuguese. The first Mozambican Catholic priest of the modern period was not ordained until 1953, and native clergy in the year of independence numbered only 38 against 478 foreign priests.
The period 1940 to 1970 was one of great expansion as churches, missions, schools and clinics were constructed, among them the catechetical center Nazaré, founded in 1968 near Beira and run by the White Fathers. However, the Church remained unaware of the growing unrest among the native population. As late as 1970, in the pastoral letter "A Christian Message for the Ordering of Right Relations in Mozambique," the bishops, all Portuguese, noted "the total absence of racial discrimination in Portuguese laws," condemned "every kind of guerrilla action (terrorismo )" and expressed the wish that social inequalities be resolved gradually. With the notable exception of Bishop Sebastião Soares Resende of Beira (d.1967) and later of Bishop Vieira Pinto of Nampula, the hierarchy supported the colonial status quo, remained silent in the face of repression and injustices, and even defended the colonial war waged in the name of Christian civilization.
The conformist attitude of the hierarchy was increasingly rejected by many missionaries. In May of 1971, 48 White Fathers from Beira and Tete left Mozambique in order not to be "accomplices of an official support which even the bishops … seem to give to a regime that shrewdly uses the Church to consolidate and perpetuate in Africa an anachronistic situation." This missionary exodus had repercussions on other congregations, especially those of the Burgos, Consolata and Comboni Fathers. In the meantime, local violence escalated and local priests began to confront bishops with reports of civilian massacres. While the hierarchy protested to the governor general, its protest was ineffective. In July of 1973 a report on the violence by the Burgos Fathers found its way to the international press via the London Times (July 10, 1973). As protests multiplied, so did deportations; nearly 100 missionaries, including Bishop Pinto of Nampula, were expelled prior to the coup that overthrew the Portuguese government on April 25, 1974.
The Church after Independence. On June 25, 1975 Mozambique gained political independence as the People's Republic of Mozambique, resulting in a radical change in Church-State relations. While the liberation government, FRELIMO, appreciated the efforts of some priests to promote the struggle for independence, it remained critical of the Church as a whole. The government of President Samora Machel nationalized church assets and stopped all subsidies. Clergy were turned out of their residences, seminaries shut and schools and hospitals taken over by the state. Radio Pax, founded in 1953 in Beira, was shut down. Four bishops resigned and hundreds of church personnel left the country by the end of 1976 as a result of the radical disestablishment of the Church. Under the new constitution, Mozambique became a secular state, although the freedom to practice one's faith was guaranteed. The socialist government's attitude toward the Church eventually softened into a growing appreciation of the Church's role in charity, particularly in the face of the civil war that would follow. A perceptible thaw in Church-state relations occurred in
1982 when some buildings were returned for Church use, and seminaries were allowed to reopen. Prior to his death in a plane crash in 1986, President Machel told Church leaders: "Let us cooperate in dialogue without prejudice on either side. Let us argue, if necessary, but not about subjects of secondary importance." The state eventually decreed that all nationalized church institutions be returned.
A New Pastoral Vision. Church leaders created a new vision of missionary and pastoral work. A document by Nampula's bishop published in July of 1975 reflected this vision by stating that the colonial and bourgeois mentality should shift to an awareness and solidarity with native people, and that the Church should not defend its material interests over its main interest, the salvation of the people. In March of 1975 the country's first two native bishops were ordained. Two years later the first National Pastoral Assembly developed practical programs for change that stressed lay ministries; the second Assembly, held in 1991, would review these programs in the light of the traumatic civil war and add recognition of the dignity of the human being and social justice by means of reconciliation and re-evangelization.
After the government released to the Church those buildings confiscated immediately after independence, it raised a new issue. While some Catholics advocated a return to the highly institutionalized infrastructure of the pre-civil war era, others called for an approach rooted in small, local Christian communities, with a respect for native languages and cultures and meaningful enculturation of the faith.
When Pope John Paul II visited the region in September of 1988, the civil war had created over two million refugees while tens of thousands had been killed. The pope appealed for a national dialogue asserting that the Church would help by every possible means, and denounced all terror in the strongest terms, confirming the local bishops in their indefatigable appeals for peace and reconciliation. Alexandre Cardinal dos Santos of Maputo and Archbishop Jaime Gonçalves of Beira played an important
role during the four years of strenuous negotiations between the warring factions FRELIMO and RENAMO, finally leading to the Rome Peace Accord of Oct. 4 1992. The first multiparty elections were held in 1994 and a year later Mozambique became the first non-British colony admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations. Diplomatic relations with the Holy See were established in 1995.
Into the 21st Century. By 2000 the Church in Mozambique had 277 active parishes tended by 88 diocesan and 328 religious priests. Other religious included approximately 90 brothers and 890 sisters, many of whom worked in the country's 217 primary and 32 secondary Catholic schools. Responding to an increasing need for Church personnel to support a growing Catholic community, churches in Brazil, Nigeria and Zimbabwe sent priests and others, while a renewed commitment was made by orders and congregations formerly active in the country. The Comboni Missionaries reopened their famous Technical Training School in Nampula and a Catholic University was planned for Beira. Most Catholics resided in the central provinces, while a growing Muslim population could be found in the north and along the coast. In response to the severe flooding experienced in the region by cyclone Eline in March of 2000, the pope donated $150,000 from his private charity, Cor Unum, to aid in the relieve efforts led by Caritas Mozambique.
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