BOTSWANA: Bishop Rebello Laid to Rest, Eulogized as a Man of Deep Spirituality and Devotion to the Blessed Mother

By Paschal Norbert

FRANCISTOWN, MAY 17, 2024 (CISA) – Rt Rev Anthony Pascal Rebello SVD, the second bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Francistown, Botswana, has been buried. The late bishop who died unexpectedly on March 4 was eulogized as a man of deep spirituality with a fervent devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Blessed Sacrament.

The late Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello SVD, 2nd bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Francistown, Botswana.

“We are consoled by the knowledge that Bishop Anthony was a person of a deep spirituality. He was a man of prayer. He loved the Blessed Mother and had a great devotion to the Divine Mercy and spent hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Death visited him while he was participating in a devotion he loved, praying the holy rosary and celebrating the holy Eucharist. With such a deep spiritual bond with Jesus Christ and the Blessed Virgin Mary, nothing indeed can now separate him from the loving embrace of the God he loved so much and served with dedication and faithfulness,” said Most Rev Dabula Mpako, the Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Pretoria, South Africa, in his homily at the funeral Mass.

Bishop Rebello who died at the age of 74 was interred in the premises  of Our Lady of the Desert Cathedral, Francistown, after a funeral Mass was held at Francistown Old Stadium on Wednesday, May 15, 2024.

The Mass was presided by Archbishop Mpako and concelebrated by Archbishop Frank Atese Nubuasah, SVD, of Gaborone, Botswana, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), and Bishop Masilo John Selemela, auxiliary of Pretoria among other prelates.

In his homily, Archbishop Mpako reflected on the shock and grief felt by the local community of Francistown and highlighted the profound sense of unity that the late bishop had built with his flock in his two-and-half years of shepherding the diocese.

A section of bishops and clergy at the graveside of Bishop Rebello.

“On the 4th of September 2021, some of us here were gathered in the cathedral of our Lady of the Desert to participate in the joyful event of the episcopal ordination of Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello, notwithstanding the Covid 19 restrictions in place at the time. Little did we know that less than three years after that joyful event, we would be gathered again here today to bid a final farewell to him through this funeral service. His death was indeed completely unexpected and came as a great shock to many of us. Some of us are still struggling to take the reality of his passing in emotionally,” he eulogized.

Focusing on the spiritual significance of the Easter season, now in its last week, which underpins the hope of Christians in the resurrection.  Archbishop Mpako emphasized that Bishop Rebello’s life was a testament to standing ready in faith, even in the face of sudden death.

“Be that as it may, this funeral Mass with which we bid final farewell to Bishop Anthony takes place during the last week of the Easter season. Easter is a time when we commemorate and celebrate in a special way the resurrection of Christ Jesus and our own faith in the resurrection. This faith holds and carries us emotionally and spiritually as we deal with the loss of his sudden passing. For we are people of the resurrection,” he stated.

In his homily, the Archbishop urged the faithful to reflect on their own lives, inspired by Bishop Rebello’s example, asking whether they were “standing where they are supposed to be” and “blooming where they are planted.”

“May the happy memory of Bishop Anthony Rebello ever remain alive in us. May his example of a deep relationship with God, his simplicity, generosity, genuine love, and compassion continue to inspire and motivate us in our own daily living. May we like him live life in such a way that we always “stand where we are supposed to be standing!” stated Archbishop Mpako.

The late Kenyan-born prelate, known for his genuine humility and simplicity, was a beloved figure in the diocese of Francistown.

The events leading to his untimely death unfolded during a 20-kilometre Rosary Walk, a devotional act planned in honour of the Marian month of May. Fr Gabriel Afagbegee, a member of the Society of Divine Word (SVD) missionaries, shared that the Bishop had not been ill or shown any signs of health issues. The Bishop had been staying at Johane Mokolobetsi, an outstation of the main parish, under Fr Gabriel’s hosting.

The walk began at the Johane Mokolobetsi outstation in Tati Siding and concluded at the Marian Grotto at the main parish centre in Tonota. Bishop Rebello, along with the faithful, started the walk at 6:00 AM, praying the Rosary throughout the journey. The group gathered to celebrate the Eucharist upon arriving at the grotto.

During the Mass, Bishop Rebello suddenly felt unwell and collapsed. Despite being promptly attended to and taken to the parish house and then to a local clinic, he could not be revived. The attending doctor pronounced him dead, noting he had earlier been on oxygen-assisted breathing.