Archimandrite Zacharias from Tanzania spoke about his spiritual path and life in the Russian Orthodox Church - Exarchate of Africa
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Archimandrite Zacharias from Tanzania spoke about his spiritual path and life in the Russian Orthodox Church

Archimandrite Zacharias (Mulingwa), born into a Catholic family in Tanzania, spoke about how he became an Orthodox priest, came under the omophorion of the Moscow Patriarchate, about studuing at the St. Petersburg Theological Academy and what impressed him most in Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church.

— Father Zacharias, tell us about yourself and your spiritual path to Orthodoxy. How did you and other priests in Africa end up in the Russian Orthodox Church?

— My name is Zachariah and I am an archimandrite from Tanzania. I was born in a Christian family, Roman Catholic. I am the last born in a family of five children. My father died 20 years ago. My spiritual journey from the Roman Catholic to the Orthodox Church started in 1998. One missionary from Tanzania, from the Greek Orthodox Church, came in our village. Then he started preaching about the Orthodox Church. So we started attending and teaching in the Greek Orthodox Church. We attended with all my family for two years. Then we got baptized in 2000.

There was a seminary in Bukoba, in the Lake Victoria zone. So I requested my parish priest to send me to the seminary, where I was accepted and he took me there to study for two years. When I finished, I was selected to go to join the Seminary of Theology in Alexandria, the St. Athanasios Seminary in Alexandria. I studied there for six years. In 2010, I became a monk. Then I served as a deacon in the Patriarchate of Alexandria in Egypt for three years. Then I was ordained as a priest. Then I became an archimandrite in 2015. I was serving there all these six years in the Monastery of Saint Sabbas. Later on, I decided to help in the missional work in my country.
Since then, I served in the Church of St. Nicholas in the city of Mwanza in the Lake Zone. Apart from that, I was also helping in the missional work in Bukoba, where the Greek Orthodox Church is more popular.

Later on, I was invited to go to Dar es Salaam.  I was serving in the Greek community there for two years. And then the schism happened in Ukraine, when our Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria decided to recognize the Schismatic church of Ukraine. Then, when we came up as priests to refuse his decision, the conflict started between the Tanzanian priests and the Patriarchate of Alexandria. This is how I found myself in the Russian Orthodox Church, because the Russian Orthodox Church is standing firmly to protect the true canonical Orthodox Church of Ukraine, while the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria was on the side of the Schismatic Church of Ukraine. Most of the African priests were against this decision. That`s how me and other priests in Africa found ourselves in the Russian Orthodox Church,
by asking for spiritual guidance, spiritual protection of the canonical Orthodoxy.

— You study at the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary. What impressed you most about Russia, about the Russian Orthodox Church?

— Our first the Patriarchal Exarch was Metropolitan Leonid. He is the one who opened the door for the Africans to come to Russia and study theology in different seminaries and different faculties. So, I was invited to go to St. Petersburg. What impressed me more in Russia is that the Russian Orthodox Church has a very wide tradition of the Orthodox Church. The Russian Orthodox Church has kept the treasure of the Orthodox Church worldwide. In terms of monastic life, the Russian Orthodox Church is very strong, because the backbone of the Orthodox Church is monastic life. We find that the monastic life in Russia is very powerful, very strong, very progressive. Not only monastics, but also nuns. Women are very strong. So, it gives me a very big spiritual experience on how to live in obedience, love, and growing in spiritual life.

Also, St. Peterburg Theological Academy has a very, very high method of teaching. Now we are trying to understand the language, but we found that it is very difficult. The church slavonic language is very difficult, but we are trying to adapt to this very beautiful tradition of the Russian Orthodox Church.

The way the churches are built is very attractive. And the way how the church is organized is very well, compared to the Greek Orthodox Church, where there is poor organization.

—Who is your favorite saint?

— My favorite saint in Russia is Saint Matrona of Moscow. Because when we started our new community of the Russian Orthodox Church in my country, we dedicated it to Saint Matrona.

Patriarchal Exarchate of Africa

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