Botswana diocese mourns loss of bishop who collapsed during Mass

Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello of the Catholic Diocese of Francistown in Botswana. | Credit: SACBC

Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello of the Diocese of Francistown in Botswana has died after he “collapsed during Mass” on Saturday, May 4, the diocese has confirmed. 

The Kenyan-born member of Society of the Divine Word of Indian origin turned 74 on March 18.

A statement published by Batswana Catholics said Rebello died later at the hospital. “We are all shocked and we await to hear further arrangements from the [Society of the Divine Word] and the vicar general of the diocese,” the statement said.

Rebello was appointed local ordinary of the Francistown Diocese in July 2021. He was ordained a priest of the Society of the Divine Word in May 1977.

Rebello was among the three pioneer Society of the Divine Word members in Kenya in 1984; they opened their first mission in Kayole in Kenya’s Archdiocese of Nairobi and later the Galba Tulla mission in the country’s Diocese of Meru.

An alumnus of the Rome-based Pontifical Gregorian University, Rebello previously served as the provincial superior of the Society of the Divine Word in Kenya and parish vicar in Angola.

Prior to his appointment as bishop, he served as the parish priest of Holy Cross Mogoditshane Parish of the Diocese of Gaborone in Botswana. 

In a May 4 statement, members of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) shared their “heartfelt condolences.”

“The news of the unexpected passing away of bishop Anthony Rebello reached us. We are shocked and sad about this news,” said SACBC president Bishop Sithembele Sipuka. “On behalf of the SACBC, I extend heartfelt condolences to the Diocese of Francistown, the Society of Divine Word, and his biological family.” 

“May all be consoled by the fact that Bishop Rebello was a humble man of strong and exemplary faith who we believe is now in the company of his risen Lord. May you all be consoled and may Bishop Rebello rest in peace,” Sipuka said.

In April 2022, Rebello was “badly injured” following an attack by robbers. He reportedly recovered from the attack after days in the hospital.

In Botswana, Rebello was known for his ministry to migrants and refugees.

In an interview with ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, Rebello spoke about the refugees his episcopal see was hosting, who he said were natives of “Burundi, Angola, Zimbabwe, and Uganda.”

“This diocese is a welcoming diocese; the sisters and the priests are welcoming, and they have been visiting the detention center and the refugee center,” he said. “I personally have visited both the centers and they are in my heart.”

In the interview, Rebello highlighted the kind of apostolate at the detention and refugee centers, including undocumented people on the move detained at Dukwi Refugee Camp. 

“The Church is doing a lot of work in assisting the migrants and refugees,” he said. “We see to their spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. We are also working toward offering spiritual help.”

Rebello lamented that the human rights of migrants and refugees in the Southern African nation were “being violated, because all children have the right to go to school.”

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He went on to caution against “discrimination and xenophobic sentiments toward migrants and refugees,” saying: “We should pay attention to our language; we should not call others with bad names that can exclude them.”

This story was first published by ACI Africa, CNA’s news partner in Africa, and has been adapted by CNA.

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