BOTSWANA: Kenyan-born Catholic Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello SVD has died

By Paschal Norbert

TATI SIDING, MARCH 6, 2024 (CISA)- Rt Rev Anthony Pascal Rebello SVD, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Francistown, Botswana, has died. In an unexpected turn of events and according to a March 4 statement by the Vicar General of the diocese of Francistown, Bishop Rebello collapsed during Mass and was declared dead on arrival at a village hospital.

A report by Vatican News details the last moments of the Kenyan-born prelate as truly shocking. The report says the bishop was staying at Johane Mokolobetsi—an Outstation of the main parish though he was being hosted by Fr Gabriel Afagbegee SVD, the parish priest, who said his sudden death was “unexpected,” since “He hadn’t been sick nor complained about anything amiss, health-wise.”

Bishop Anthony Rebello was born in Kenya in 1950. An Indian of Goan decent, he was a member of the Society of Divine Word and was appointed bishop of Francistown in 2021.

Fr Gabriel explained that on Saturday morning, March 4, 2024, Bishop Rebello, in the company of the Catholic faithful of Johane Mokolobetsi Outstation, undertook a 20 Kilometre Rosary Walk that they had been planning to do in honour of the Marian month of May. They walked from the Johane Mokolobetsi outstation at Tati Siding to the Marian Grotto at the main parish centre grounds at Tonota in the Diocese of Francistown.

“This morning (Saturday), the Bishop and the members of Johane Mokolobetsi started the Rosary Walk around 6.00, praying the Rosary all along the way. Arriving at the grotto, all gathered to celebrate the Eucharist to conclude the prayer walk,” said Fr Gabriel.

It was during the Mass that the Bishop felt unwell and was attended to. He was taken to the parish house and then to a clinic in the village. A doctor was called. The doctor pronounced Bishop Rebello dead. He had earlier been on oxygen-assisted breathing.

Pope Francis appointed Rebello as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Francistown, Botswana, on July 5, 2021.

The late Bishop Rebello was born on March 18, 1950, in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1969 he entered the Society of the Divine Word, completing his noviciate in Khurda, Madhya Pradesh, India. He concluded his priestly formation at the Divine Word Seminary of Pune (1969-1977).

He gave his religious vows in 1976 and was ordained a priest on May 10, 1977, in India.Following his ordination, he first exercised his pastoral ministry in India and obtained a Bachelor of Education (1977-1979). He was then awarded a licentiate in spiritual theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome (1979-1981), and went on to serve as a missionary in Botswana, where he was parish priest in Palapye (1981-1984).

In Kenya, he held the office of provincial superior (1984-1987), in Antigua, he exercised his ministry in a rural parish and then in the Holy Family Cathedral (1987-1990); and in Angola,he held the roles of parish vicar (1990-1992), parish priest (1992-1996) and master of novices (1996-2000).

He then continued his pastoral ministry in India (2000-2002). Since 2003 he has served as a missionary in Botswana, in the Catholic Diocese of Gaborone, where he held the office of parish priest of Palapye and Metsimotlhabe, and then parish priest of Holy Cross Parish in Mogoditshane , from where he was appointed bishop on July 5, 2021.