Pope Francis, Bishops Express Gratitude to Tanzanian Cardinal Marking Silver Jubilee

Pope Francis and Polycarp Cardinal Pengo (left), the Archbishop emeritus of Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam Archdiocese. Credit: Mazur/ Media

Pope Francis has expressed gratitude to  Polycarp Cardinal Pengo, the Archbishop emeritus of Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam Archdiocese, for his service to the Universal Church for decades, including the last 25 years as Cardinal.

In a message, which the Apostolic Nuncio in Tanzania, Archbishop Angelo Accattino, read out during the Holy Mass to mark the Tanzanian Catholic Church leader’s Silver Jubilee as Cardinal on Tuesday, June 20, Pope Francis acknowledged with appreciation Cardinal Pengo's “zealous effort to evangelize”.

“I renew my gratitude for your service to the Bishop of Rome. Through you, the beloved African continent was able to make a unique contribution for the good of the entire Church,” Pope Francis said in his message read out during Holy Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral of Dar-es-Salaam Archdiocese. 

“At the same time, mindful of your nearly four decades of episcopal ministry shepherding the Dioceses of Nachingwea, Tunduru-Masasi, and the Archdiocese of Dar-es-Salaam, I’m confident that your zealous effort to evangelize and promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life will continue to bear fruit for the holy people of God for years to come,” the Holy Father further said about the 78-year-old Cardinal who started his Episcopal Ministry in January 1984. 

He implored for the Cardinal, “I pray that through the intercession of your heavenly patron, St Polycarp, and the maternal protection of Our Lady of La Salette, Almighty God will sustain you in His love, mercy, and peace.” 


Born on 5 August 1944, Cardinal Pengo was ordained a Priest for the Catholic Diocese of Sumbawanga on 20 June 1971.

He was appointed Bishop of Tanzania’s Nachingwea Diocese in November 1983 and ordained Bishop of the Episcopal See in January 1984. 

In October 1986, he was transferred from Tanzania’s Nachingwea Diocese where he had been serving since his Episcopal Ordination, to the East African nation’s Tunduru-Masasi Diocese.

On 22 January 1990, Cardinal Pengo was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Dar-es-Salaam. He succeeded the late Laurean Cardinal Rugambwa as the Local Ordinary of Dar-es-Salaam on 22 July 1992. 

He was elevated to the rank of Cardinals at the 21 February 1998 consistory.

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Pope Francis accepted his retirement in August 2019 at the age of 75, and appointed Archbishop Jude Thaddaeus Ruwa’ichi as his successor. 

In a separate message during the June 20 celebration, members of the Tanzania Episcopal Conference (TEC) lauded Cardinal Pengo for his “great accomplishments”. 

“We have memories of the great accomplishments that you have made for our nation and the church as a whole,” TEC President, Archbishop Gervais Nyaisonga of Tanzania’s Mbeya Archdiocese said. 

Archbishop Nyaisonga said that the Archbishop emeritus of Dar-es-Salaam has “proved and demonstrated that you are patient, and courageous.”

“You worked for spiritual and physical development,” he told the Tanzanian Cardinal on behalf of TEC members, adding that when Cardinal Pengo was installed as the Local Ordinary of Dar-es-Salaam, there were only 20 Catholic Parishes, and that by the time he retired in August 2019, the Tanzanian Archdiocese had more than 100 Catholic Parishes.


Cardinal is “a true missionary”, Archbishop Nyaisonga said, and added, “Throughout your time, you thought highly of people who had not heard of Jesus Christ and thus made an effort to reach them. In Tunduru Masasi Diocese, you worked hard to spread the Gospel.”

Cardinal Pengo, the Catholic Archbishop continued, is “a favorite of children and young people and you never stopped evangelizing them.” 

He further said that Cardinal Pengo has been instrumental in encouraging unity and “good relations” among the people of God. 

“You have proved to be a relationship builder. You have always been at the front line encouraging good relations among Catholics and between Catholics and non-Catholics,” Archbishop Nyaisonga said, and added, “You are a promoter of national unity. Wherever you felt the unity was wavering, you did not remain silent but you rebuked the wrongs and the nation heard you.”

“We thank you, and we thank God for all of this. May you continue to guide and advise us, continue to pray for us, and we pray for your blessings,” the President of TEC said during the June 20 event to mark 25 years of Cardinal Pengo’s elevation to Cardinal.

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Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.