Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Somewhere in Africa, We have an open letter to the Pope

Letter from Arusha. Hours after the news of Pope Benedict’s resignation came through, Alfredo, our chair, quickly convoked our bar’s consistory to discuss the events and the way forward. After hours of brainstorming, we drafted a communiqué to be sent to the Holy See. Below is the report.

Salve Papa, it is with a heavy heart that we have learnt of your decision to do the unthinkable- quit the table while the broth is still flowing. We just do not understand how after the over 30 years you spent chasing the animal, and finally catching it in 2005, you hang up the boots just eight years into the party.

We also find your arguments of retirement very unconvincing. You cite age and ill-health. Who surely leaves a coveted position just because they think they are old? In this part of the world, we say, “Age is just a number”. That explains why campaigns against cross-generational sex failed. No one takes matters of age seriously. Above all, it is such a subjective matter. Who determines that one is “very old”?

We guess that you must have heard of a chap called Kamuzu Banda. He led the then Nyasaland into independence in 1961 and ruled as president until 1993, when he was defeated in an election. In 1993, Banda was 95 years old. He had lost all his teeth and was losing sight. However, he still wanted to rule Malawi. It was only after Bakili Muluzi defeated him that he retired, only to die four years later.
In our view, this is what they call service. We therefore could not believe that at 85 years, you consider yourself too old to lead the Catholic Church. In fact, our own assessment was that perhaps there is no institution easier to lead than the Catholic Church.

The readings are uniform across the world, the homilies are the same, the prayers are identical, everything is so organised that even a Tanzanian Member of Parliament would easily lead such an institution.
Now, compare what you think is a demanding task with running a country like Tanzania. You could wake up only to learn that someone has swept the Central Bank coffers dry. 

There is even the real possibility that you wake up and overweight people are walking to work, causing a standstill among those who walk to work daily courtesy of poverty. Dear Pope, do you now realise that you could have made a mistake? Even then, if you thought making certain decisions had become cumbersome, why not keep a bevy of advisers? Doesn’t the Vatican provide for positions like Pope’s Adviser of Travel and Entertainment? And unlike some advisers we know elsewhere, we guess yours would be taken seriously.

The bar in Arusha also found the argument of ill-health rather absurd. What ill-health? Don’t you have a personal jet? Could you not be flown to Germany or some such place for treatment? How can a Pope not find someone to fix his health concerns? Look, back here, we care a lot about our “big men and women” that every year, we sacrifice over Shs300 billion to ensure they are in good health. Like you guessed, that money is not spent in our local hospitals, it is spent in foreign lands.

If mere Tanzanian can fork that kind of money to treat their own, what can’t Catholics do? All you had to state was where you wanted to be treated. In Tanzania, we would even break into our Catholic foreign reserves to pay your bills.

We also learnt that while still Pope you did a couple of tours around the world. We are not sure if you went to the Maghreb and met a gentleman called Muammar Gaddafi (may his soul rest in peace). Had you met him, he would have told you about revolutionaries and how they don’t retire. That you have broken such a cardinal principle of revolutionaries, we can’t help but mourn.

Finally, you must be wondering why we are writing this from a bar. As you know, it is only your church that acknowledges Jesus’ first miracle—when he turned water into wine at that Cana wedding—and also respects the notion of a little drink being good for one’s health. I hope you now understand where we are coming from.

Enjoy your retirement.

 By Don Wanyama


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