At Virtual Event, Tanzanian Priest Offers Insights into Mary as “icon of African women”

Fr. Vincent Mrio addressing participants during the Friday, March 18 webinar organized by the Mariological Society of America. Credit: Pauline Publications Africa

A Tanzanian Catholic Priest has, at a virtual event, offered insights into the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary as an “icon of African women.”

Addressing participants during the Friday, March 18 webinar that was organized by the Mariological Society of America, Fr. Vincent Mrio explored the role of Mary in the History of Salvation and in the African family.

“It is a challenge to consider Mary from her Jewish background to be the icon of African women, but that is the challenge of every non-Jewish race. However, as the mother of Christ, she surpasses all races and cultures, indeed, she is able to speak to all,” Fr. Mrio said.

The Kenya-based Catholic Priest said that in Africa, “there are a number of Marian devotions that bring devotees to a deeper love of God through Mary. Thus, we are interested in a relationship which gives value to African culture and promotes the dignity of African women, while embracing Mary as a model.”

Credit: Paulines Publications Africa


The author of the book published under the title, “The Handmaid of the Lord: Mariology from its Doctrinal and African Perspectives”, further said that in the development of African Christology, “some indigenous theologians consider Christ as our elder Brother and some see him as our Ancestor.”

“In this line of Christology whereby the Word of God took flesh, let us consider Christ's mother as our Ancestress, and her faith as continuing to be imparted to African Christians,” the Tanzianian Catholic Priest added.

According to Fr. Mrio, Mary’s dignity and her divine maternity “deserve to be imagined as first among African mothers in eternity, and hence she acquires the title Ancestress.”

“The mother of the African family has a particularly sensitive role as mediator, and this is probably the most important of Mary's characteristics,” the lecturer of Dogmatic Theology at the Kenya-based Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA) said. 

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The mediatorial office of Mary, the New Eve, Fr. Mrio said, “is replicated in the African mother's gentle efforts to ameliorate disputes between an overly authoritarian father and his young children, between the children themselves, between relatives, or between those outside the extended family and those within it.”

“With wise counsel, often coaxed by well-prepared meals, she applies her gifts of intuition and personal familiarity to bring those at variance to a peaceful resolution. The African mother is a skilled mediator,” Fr. Mrio said in his March 18 presentation titled, “The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Dignity of African Women.”

For Christians, he continued, “The Family is the domestic Church, whereby its members form part of the Parish, Diocese and the universal Church.”

Credit: Pauline Publications Africa

“Mary the Mother of Jesus never ceases to belong to the Holy Family of Nazareth, and through her divine maternal love continues to care for the earthly family, the pilgrim Church in Africa. Mary is part of African society, and, therefore, of the African family,” the Catholic Priest said.


For the dignity of the African woman in relation to her role in the Church and in society, Fr. Mrio said, “The Church in Africa, which is the Bride of the glorified Christ and the symbol of Mary's maternal love, should deplore and condemn, to the extent that they are still found in some African societies, all the customs and practices which deprive women of their rights and the respect due to them.”

He continued, “To be our ancestress, Mary must be viewed in her Christian context as full of grace imparting virtues to the hearts of people.”

“For African women of either type of culture, Mary, the Mother of Jesus is always the icon of perfect virtue and a woman of integrity,” Fr. Mrio further said, adding the dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary “is unique and immeasurable.”

“So, whenever we approach the Blessed Mary in prayer, our expectations are beyond that of being intercessor,” he said.

Coming to Mary the mother of Jesus, he went on to say, “is like attending the school of faith, hope, love, obedience, humility and righteousness.”

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Credit: Pauline Publications Africa

The dignity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr. Mrio said, “inspires us. It mostly inspires the majority of African women who in many ways face all sorts of hardship. She is a teacher of love, which surpasses all theological virtues.”

“African women should learn how to respond to God's call with true love and faith. Mary's dignity is recognized in her relationship with the triune God,” the Tanzanian Catholic Priest said, adding, “The dignity of the African woman, Christian or non-Christian, comes to fulfillment in God himself.

Credit: Pauline Publications Africa

In his book, Fr. Mrio explores the four dogmas about Mary, that is, Mary as Mother of God, her Perpetual Virginity (before, during and after the birth of Jesus), her Immaculate Conception, and her Assumption into Heaven.

Speaking during the launch of the book in May 2021, Fr. Mrio said the book relates the life of struggle experienced by African women to the mission of the Virgin Mary as the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.