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As Tanzanian Bishop is Laid to Rest, Cleric Highlights Legacy Defining His Episcopate

Late Bishop Alfred Leonhard, laid to rest April 13 in Tanzania's Diocese of Njombe.

As the late Bishop Alfred Leonhard Maluma of Tanzania’s Njombe Diocese was laid to rest, Tuesday, April 13, a Cleric who ministered closely with him has, in an interview, highlighted the legacy of the Tanzanian Prelate whose episcopate spanned close to two decades.

Bishop Maluma who was ordained a Bishop in September 2002 passed on due to a cardiac arrest on April 6 at Tanzania’s Muhimbili National Referral Hospital where he was receiving treatment after having been involved in a road accident on March 28. He was aged 65.

In an interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Innocent Petro Chaula who served as the personal secretary of the late Bishop said the Diocese, located in Singida Ecclesiastical Province, “has achieved so much under Bishop Maluma.”

The late Bishop, Fr. Chaula said, spearheaded multiple projects including health facilities, agricultural entities, capacity building initiatives, and hydroelectric power plants, among others.

“In some areas of Njombe where the soil is too acidic, the Bishop encouraged the people to grow tea,” Fr. Chaula told ACI Africa during the April 10 interview, adding that courtesy of the Bishop’s leadership, “the Diocese, in collaboration with Unilever, started a tea processing factory.”

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Bishop Maluma spearheaded the construction of the “hydroelectric power plants that produce electricity and sell to the people at a lower price than the national company,” the Tanzanian Cleric further recalled.

The late Bishop “encouraged the people to keep dairy cattle and in collaboration with Caritas and Heifer international, the Diocese brought a milk processing factory in Njombe area. From there we get cheese and other dairy products,” the member of the Clergy of Njombe Diocese who also serves as the Social Communications Director in the Tanzanian Diocese told ACI Africa.

Other facilities the late Bishop spearheaded include the construction of a rehabilitation center, health centers, primary and secondary schools, agricultural training institutes, and a water bottling plant, Fr. Chaula who has been living with Bishop Maluma for the past five years said, adding that the Bishop “wanted the Diocese to become self-sustainable.”

“The Church needs to go to the people for evangelization but how do we support these pastoral activities? The Bishop believed that we should have projects to sustain pastoral activities because our Christians are not able to sustain all activities,” Fr. Chaula explained. 

Born in December 1955 in the Diocese of Njombe, Bishop Maluma was ordained a Priest for the same episcopal see in November 1985. 

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Pope John Paul II appointed him as the Local Ordinary of Njombe in June 2002, succeeding the late Bishop Raymond Mwanyika who had resigned at the age of 72.

In the April 10 interview with ACI Africa, Fr. Chaula expressed his shock following the death of his Local Ordinary, saying it all seems “like a dream” for him and for the people of God in Njombe Diocese.

“The people cannot believe that the Bishop is dead. It is like a dream. They are seeing him in their midst; it is like he is still telling them to serve with sacrifice and love,” the Tanzanian Cleric said.

He went on to eulogize the late Bishop as a very humble person who spoke little and acted more. 

“My Bishop valued human dignity. He had a passion for the sick and the disabled people,” Fr. Chaula eulogized the late Bishop, and added, “He loved to see people developing their standards of living. He was brave and a risk-taker when it came to starting a project.”

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Reflecting on Bishop Maluma’s episcopal motto, “Service with Sacrifice and Love,” Fr. Chaula said that the late Bishop adhered to his maxim as “the words love and sacrifice were normal in our daily activities.”

He called on the people of God in Njombe Diocese to have courage and be united while mourning their Bishop and encouraged them to celebrate Bishop Maluma’s life “by making his philosophy of life a living memory.” 

Bishop Maluma was laid to rest at the Cathedral of St. Joseph, Njombe Tuesday, April 13.

In his message during Bishop Maluma’s Funeral Mass April 13, the President of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC), Archbishop Gervais Nyaisonga called on the people of God in Njombe to emulate the attitude and work of their late shepherd.

“Bishop Maluma was well known for his efforts in bringing about the liberation of mankind. Let us all imitate the good things of Bishop Maluma,” Archbishop Nyaisonga who has been at the helm of Tanzania’s Mbeya Archdiocese since December 2018 said, adding that emulating the late Bishop “will help us to serve others.”

Pope Francis expressed his condolences to the Clergy, men and women Religious and all the faithful of Njombe Diocese of Njombe in a statement that was read by TEC’s President.

In the statement, the Holy Father said he was “deeply saddened and deeply moved by the death of Bishop Alfred Maluma.” 

He offered his prayers for the repose of Bishop Maluma’s soul and expressed gratitude for his “priestly and episcopal service in the Diocese of Njombe.” 

On their part, the leadership of the Njombe Resources Association eulogized the late Bishop as one who “believed that his flock should be cared for.”

“He fought disease by doing a lot in the health sector including building dispensaries. He built so many schools. This leader believed in fighting poverty. He believed that his flock should become self-sustainable,” a representative of the Association said during April 13 Eucharistic celebration.

He added that the late Bishop “believed the Diocese could be economically viable... and that the Church has the power and influence to be able to quickly liberate people economically in collaboration with various agencies including the government.”

“Only a few people have received the gifts of resilience, silence, curiosity, leadership but with great results,” the representative of Njombe Resources Association said, adding, “We are weeping because of Bishop Maluma but let us remember that he was a gift from God.”

In an interview with ACI Africa, a Catholic Nun serving in the Tanzanian Diocese recalled the late Bishop as one who was open and who “welcomed different charisms in his diocese to enrich the diocese.”

Bishop Maluma “stood strong in faith and lived a life of humility and prayer among other values,” the Nun said, adding that the late Bishop “preached and embraced the value of human dignity. He will forever be remembered and valued. Rest in peace our dear Bishop.”