Sao Tome: Country’s catholic bishop tenders resignation after 15 years in post

The bishop of the Diocese of São Tomé and Príncipe, Manuel António dos Santos, announced on Wednesday his resignation from his post after 15 years of mission in the archipelago, a request accepted by the Vatican.

“From this moment I am no longer bishop of São Tomé and Príncipe,” Manuel António said minutes before the Holy See published the information in its official bulletin.

Manuel António, a native of São Joaninho, Viseu district, Portugal, had been appointed Diocesan Bishop of São Tomé and Príncipe on December 1, 2006 by Pope Benedict XVI, taking office on March 18, 2007.

“I have been bishop of São Tomé for 15 years, seven and a half months” and “I would like to begin by thanking you for all the affection, all the welcome I have always felt, all the human warmth with which I have always been welcomed in this land”, Manuel António dos Santos stressed.

The former leader of the Catholic Church in São Tomé and Príncipe said that during his mission he sought “to be a pastor of São Tomé” and even acquired São Tomense nationality in order to truly feel “identified with this people.

Justifying his resignation, Manuel António dos Santos, 62, considers that “being bishop in São Tomé and Príncipe is not easy, because it is a diocese and also a country” and as a result “the bishop ends up being the centre of the church” and a “very sought-after figure” who is “always in continuous movement” for meetings, trips and other activities.

“Besides, it is a diocese with many difficulties and it demands from the bishop the commitment to think about the present and the future of the diocese. The truth is that the moment came when I was feeling deeply tired. In recent times I was already finding it difficult to feel the courage to continue”, stated Manuel António dos Santos.

However, he explained that since he was appointed fifteen years ago, he had set a maximum target of 10 years for the exercise of the function but ended up extending it a little longer.

“At the time I was ordained, I already set that level as a reference point. In addition to this, I am a religious and I bring with me the culture of the religious who normally live out their office with a limited time, where 12 years is normally the time that is considered as the maximum reference for the following performance of an office in the congregation”, he explained.

“If the bishops had a sabbatical year, perhaps I would be able to risk staying [in office] a little longer, but this way, without the prospect of being able to stop, of being able to calm down, I think that there also comes a time when we have to think that we don’t have enough energy,” added Manuel António dos Santos, who this month commemorates the 37th anniversary of his ordination as a priest of the Catholic Church.

Preparing to return to Portugal, Manuel António dos Santos believes that in recent years “the Church of São Tomé has been growing, maturing, creating new structures, even having new religious families”. 

In this sense, the “passing on of the baton may be a grace for this diocese within its history, so that it may continue on its way, also deepening its identity as a church inserted here in Africa, a church, a young church, a new church so that it may continue on its way. I leave continuing to be San Tomean, I leave continuing certainly united to this church, united to all of you and I will try to continue to collaborate with you and to give the best of myself at the service of this diocese”, stressed Manuel António dos Santos.