The first Plenary meeting took place in Dar-es-Salaam from 17th – 26th July 1961 under a very significant theme: “The Future of the Church in Africa”. Interestingly the agenda items for this first Plenary included:

  • The Church and Media: Regional TV, Radio Station and Printing Press.
  • Spiritual Formation for the Diocesan Priests.
  • A Need for a Centre for Pastoral Renewal and On – going Formation.
  • A Possibility of a Regional University or at least a University College.
  • A Comprehensive Self – reliance Programme.
  • The Future of Catholic Schools and Catholic Education (need for a Christian Religious Education Syllabus).
  • Justice and Peace Issues in the Region.

These themes tell us that although it was a regional gathering, the Bishops’ vision was Panafrican. Present during that historic meeting were Bishops from Kenya, Nyasaland, Tanganyika, Uganda and Northern Rhodesia. These were the Founding Members of the regional body. The Sudan and Eritrea/Ethiopia joined later though the former were observers from the beginning.

The Bishops decided to form a board consisting of Bishop Representatives from the five founding conferences. This was known as the Inter-Regional Episcopal Board in Eastern Africa (ITEBEA). Initially, ITEBEA was not to be a permanent structure, but rather a study forum where Bishops could meet time and again and together reflect on pastoral issues of common interest within the region. This was why they elected a part-time Secretary, Father Killian Flynn, who till 1964 was also full-time Secretary General for the Bishops’ Conference of Northern Rhodesia. The meeting elected as ITEBEA’s first Chairman the late Most Reverend Adam Kozlowiecki, the former Archbishop of Lusaka till 1969 who later on became Cardinal. The Late Laurean Cardinal Rugambwa was a Patron of ITEBEA. In a nutshell the beginnings of ITEBEA were characterized by the presence of prophetic and foresighted church leaders. The original intention of ITEBEA was to be a regional forum for collaborative study of and reflection on pastoral issues of common regional interest.