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Code of Canon Law Translated to Kiswahili after Seven Years of Work in Tanzania

Code of Canon Law

The Code of Canon Law is now available in Kiswahili language following seven years of “difficult” work undertaken by a team of translators under the auspices of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), a Cleric involved in the initiative has announced.

“In 2013, the Bishops decreed that the Laws of the Church, which were still in English, be translated into Kiswahili so that Catholic believers could understand them more easily,” the Executive Secretary of the Commission of Canon Law of TEC, Fr. Henry Mchamungu has said.

Kiswahili is spoken by up to 150 million people across the East African countries of Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda and its use has spread to Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In his message published on YouTube November 17, Fr. Mchamungu says that in 2013, the team of translators spearheaded by the leadership of TEC’s “Commission of Canon Law began to meet and to discuss how to interpret the Laws of the Church”

“We also had to look at where we would get the money to facilitate the travels and to pay for meetings,” the Tanzanian Cleric further says and acknowledges the financial support from Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International and a Diocese in Austria.

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The Clergy of Tanzania’s Archdiocese of Dar es Salaam describes the translation process as challenging saying, “The task of interpreting the law is difficult. Finding Kiswahili words that will not change the intended meaning was no mean feat.”

“We started holding sessions, dividing the work according to different chapters and everyone translated the chapters personally. After this, we would meet and go through those translations that were made by individuals,” Fr. Mchamungu recounts in the 7-minute YouTube video.

The “step by step” translation process “looked at each chapter and when we were done with a chapter, we gave it to the Bishops before continuing to the other chapter,” the official of TEC says, adding that the process of translation was completed in June 2019 when the “Bishops approved the sixth chapter of the translation.” 

“Finally, last year, we succeeded in completing the project. The Bishops passed it last year in June when they met and authorized the publication of Canon Law in Kiswahili,” Executive Secretary of the Commission of Canon Law of TEC says.

Due to limited funding, TEC could not make an upfront payment for the publication of the document, Fr. Mchamungu explains in the video message.

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“We received some funding to enable publishing of four thousand copies but the finance that we received could only enable us to pay around half the total amount,” the TEC official says.

As a way forward, the Tanzanian Cleric says, “We spoke to the missionaries running the Claretian Publications to publish the books and agreed to pay them in instalments.” 

Copies of the Kiswahili Code of Canon Law to Kiswahili are being distributed in bookshops across the East African country, each copy being sold at TZS.20,000.00 (US$9).