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Mozambique’s First Catholic Seminary to Receive Facelift after Damage in Civil War

Credit: Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal

The Catholic Church in Mozambique has written to the Pontifical charity foundation, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Portugal, requesting for help to renovate Mozambique’s first Catholic Seminary that was ruined in the country’s 1977 civil war.

The old Seminary in Namaacha, a town which borders South Africa and Swaziland is a facility of the Catholic Archdiocese of Maputo.

The Seminary, which the Mozambican Archdiocese wants to transform into a center of spirituality is said to have been a scene of heavy fighting during the 15-year conflict. At some point, it is said to have been converted to a shelter for people who had been displaced in the violence.

The leadership of ACN Portugal says that to date, the Seminary bears bullet marks on its walls as the testimony of its “many years of misfortune”.

“The building, huge, has known many stories, many misfortunes. It was even the scene of fights during the long hard years of the civil war, and still bears bullet marks on its walls,” ACN Portugal leadership says in a Monday, November 22 report, and adds, “Now the Church wants to transform it into a diocesan center of spirituality. And it has asked the ACN foundation for help.”

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The Seminary is located about 75 kilometers from Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, and is only about five kilometers from South Africa.

The Catholic facility was reportedly confiscated soon after Mozambique’s independence in 1975 and only returned to the hands of the Church in very poor condition almost two decades later, in 1994.

Fr. Cláudio dos Reis, 55 years old, is currently responsible for this building that the Archdiocese of Maputo has now converted into the Diocesan Center for Pastoral and Spirituality.

The Catholic Priest told the charity foundation that during the time that the old Seminary was confiscated from the Church, the facility deteriorated to the point that several families moved in, turning it into a temporary shelter.

“After the handover, we tried to do something,” explains Fr. Cláudio, adding that it was only in 2010 that a team of Priests and Religious started to work in the center, seeking to revitalize it as an important space for the life of the Mozambican Church.

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Currently, the center serves as a place of formation for pastoral care and spirituality, attracting people from all over the country who also come to pray and have a moment of meditation at its grotto.

“The grotto attracts a lot of people,” Fr. Cláudio tells ACN Portugal, and adds, “It is a place of prayer and spirituality and people come here to pray especially on weekends and holidays and it doesn’t matter from where... Some even come from the city of Maputo to the grotto just to pray.”

The Priest who is in charge of the center says that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many meetings at the facility of various groups from all over the Archdiocese of Maputo.

“The pandemic put a brake on the pace of the meetings that were being scheduled, but everyone believes that sooner or later everything will return to normal,” Fr. Cláudio says in the November 22 ACN Portugal report.

He adds, “What we can do for now is to provide conditions for these groups to stay, because the building is old. The building is not old, but it is aging, because it has not been treated.”

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The Priest says that the biggest concern of Archbishop Francisco Chimoio of the Archdiocese of Maputo is to create more dignified conditions with the construction of small rooms for better accommodation of people.

For this, the Archdiocese has asked the Pontifical charity foundation for help, the leadership of the charity entity says, and adds, “It is a necessary work, but it is beyond the financial capacity of the church these days.”

Fr.  Cláudio has also expressed the dire need of the Catholic Church in Mozambique amid insurgency and displacement of people, saying, “There really needs to be some outside help.”

“We are really in an impoverished country and we have a church that still has to travel a certain road to self-sustainability,” Fr. Cláudio is quoted as saying.

He adds, “These are big works, but from my point of view they help to concentrate people and create conditions so that, from this place, we can radiate spirituality, human formation, social formation, the formation of our citizens, especially our young people,”.

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Naturally, the Catholic Priest continues, “I could not remain indifferent to the fact that I have to thank all the benefactors who have directly helped this Church in need, who have really given us this support. We are a very impoverished Church and we are also a very impoverished country.”