Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa Urged to Include Women Religious in Church Affairs

Bishop Method Kilaini, Auxiliary Bishop of Bukoba Diocese in Tanzania, addressing delegates of the 20th Plenary Assembly of AMECEA on 11 July 2022. Credit ACI Africa

Women have an important leadership role in initiating and implementing Diocesan programs, Catholic Bishops in Eastern African have been told, and cautioned against sidelining women Religious Women in official “affairs of the Church”.

In his Monday, July 11 address to delegates of the 20th Plenary Assembly of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Bishop Method Kilaini said that Catholic Nuns are some of the most well-formed professionals in the Church who should be incorporated in official Church programs.

Bishop Kilaini who was presenting the “Historical Roots of AMECEA” said that those at the helm of Catholic Dioceses in Eastern Africa risk losing a lot should women Religious be denied an opportunity to contribute their expertise and professionalism in Church initiatives at Diocesan, national, regional, continental, and even international level.

“We have a big army of women who are very well informed – the Religious Sisters; they have been formed mentally, academically and professionally. If we do not use them, if we do not incorporate them into the affairs of the Church, they will walk far away from it; They will probably establish a parallel organization to the Church or they will be used by other people and that will be such a great loss to the Church,” the Tanzanian Catholic Bishop said.

Delegates of the 20th Plenary Assembly of AMECEA in Dar es Salaam during the 11 July 2022 session. Credit: ACI Africa


The Auxiliary Bishop of Tanzania’s Bukoba Diocese added, in reference to women Religious, “We therefore have to use them, and we don’t expect them to only say ‘Yes Bishop, Yes Bishop’, no. We have to make sure that we include them in our programs.”

Bishop Kilaini said that Catholic Nuns who have distinguished themselves with necessary skills through formation need to be included in AMECEA and programs in national Conferences and at the level of the Diocese, noting that it is the only way that women Religious will be useful.

The 74-year-old Catholic Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry as Auxiliary Bishop of Dar es Salaam Archdiocese in March 2000 spoke broadly on the historical roots of AMECEA, noting that the regional association had made significant strides since its establishment in 1961.

He highlighted the vision of AMECEA’s founding Fathers whose desire, he said, was “to have a common pastoral approach to issues of common interest in the region” of Eastern Africa.

Delegates of the 20th Plenary Assembly of AMECEA in Dar es Salaam during the 11 July 2022 session. Credit: ACI Africa

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Key on the set of goals of the AMECEA founding Fathers was to have a common Church media platform, to have structures for spiritual formation of Catholic Priests, and to have comprehensive self-reliance programs.

The AMECEA founding fathers who first met in Tanzania, then known as Tanganyika, also desired to have Catholic schools and to establish strong justice and peace structures in the Eastern Africa region.

In his July 11 presentation at Plenary Assembly that has brought together more than 100 Catholic Bishops from the nine AMECEA countries, Bishop Kilaini confessed that though the association had not realized its dream to have a common Catholic media platform, individual countries had already started their own media platforms, including radios, televisions, and digital news platforms.

He lauded the Nairobi-based AMECEA Secretariat in particular, for establishing a leading digital news platform.

“AMECEA hasn’t established a common media, not a radio and not a common TV. But fortunately, our countries have radios and TVs,” Bishop Kilaini said, and added, “We are grateful to have a strong IT department at AMECEA. You should go on with this because it is now easy to coordinate communication through IT.”


He cautioned against the Church’s laxity in invading the media space with “good messages”, saying, the Church in the Eastern Africa region “should go ahead strongly into IT; that is the future, and if we are not strong with IT, if we do not feed the world with IT materials, the others will fill the gap and we shall be lost.”

Delegates of the 20th Plenary Assembly of AMECEA in Dar es Salaam during the 11 July 2022 session. Credit: ACI Africa

“Let the IT at AMECEA coordinate the national IT’s so that we can be able to bombard the media space with good messages,” the Tanzanian Catholic Bishop said.

He noted that through the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA), AMECEA had fulfilled its desire to have a regional Catholic University in the Eastern Africa region.

The Catholic Bishop said that though CUEA that is based in Nairobi, Kenya, is doing well, it is currently facing competition from Catholic universities that have sprung up in the AMECEA countries.

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“CUEA is doing well but it needs to improve in certain areas,” Bishop Kilaini said, and explained, “At the moment, various countries in the region have started their own local Catholic universities. Not many people are sending students to CUEA, which has now become a university for Kenyan students where it is based.”

To set itself apart, CUEA needs to graduate to the level of center of excellence, the Auxiliary Bishop of Bukoba Diocese said.

“We encourage CUEA to make itself a Catholic hub of all the AMECEA countries. This way, it will be able to coordinate the other Catholic universities in the region to have a common vision, to promote a Catholic identity, ethical principles, Gospel values, social teachings of the Church, share intellectual resources, conduct joint research on key pastoral and theological and cultural issues. That is what CUEA should do because you can’t have these BA (Bachelor of Arts) students who have an option to study in their home countries,” he said.

Delegates of the 20th Plenary Assembly of AMECEA in Dar es Salaam during the 11 July 2022 session. Credit: ACI Africa

Bishop Kilaini who celebrated his golden jubilee since he was ordained a Priest in March noted that past AMECEA Plenary Assemblies had also dwelt hugely on justice and peace issues in the Eastern African region.

He said that there had been solidarity visits to many AMECEA countries that had been in turmoil, including South Sudan.

The Catholic Bishop called on AMECEA members to continue speaking out against injustices in their respective countries and in the region.

He said, “We should continue to be more vocal and the voice of the voiceless. Do not keep quiet when humanity is being hurt or is being abused. The Bishops should individually, and as Conferences, be able to speak up against injustices.”

He lauded Catholic Bishops in Eastern Africa for their solidarity since the inception of AMECEA, noting that the Bishops of the member countries regularly meet “even if it means just to know each other and to interact with one another”.

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.