Owing to Covid-19 restrictions just a handful of bishops attended the episcopal ordination of Bishop Anthony Pascal Rebello in Francistown, Botswana, on the 4th September 2021. Among them was the Principal Consecrator Archbishop Frank Nubuasah; the Bishop of Gaborone, and the predecessor of Bishop Rebello in Francistown; the Co-Consecrator and the 1st Vice-President of SACBC, Archbishop Dabula Mpako, of the Archdiocese of Pretoria, the Metropolitan under which the Diocese of Francistown falls; and the second Co-Consecrator Archbishop Peter Wells, the Apostolic Nuncio.
“I will give you shepherds after my own hear who will feed you with knowledge and understanding… Since you my beloved son excel in charity, prudence, sound doctrine and active pascal ministry we want to entrust this office to you.” That is some of the content of the letter from Pope Francis that was read by the Apostolic Nuncio just before the homily and the rite of consecration.
Bishop Kevin Dowling, Bishop Emeritus of Rustenburg, gave a homily. “The Church’s task in each country is to make of each country individual history, a history of salvation,” said the Bishop Emeritus quoting the now St. Oscar Romero, the Salvadoran Archbishop who was assassinated during the celebration of Mass on Sunday, 24th March 1980. He quoted him saying St. Oscar Romero is an inspiration for all bishops in their calling and ministry among their people. “To make our history and our ongoing salvation here in Botswana, and in the diocese of Francistown, the story of salvation is the calling and the mission of our new bishop, Anthony Rebello, together with all the people of God in the diocese.”
The president of SACBC, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka, congratulated the Church in Botswana for now having two diocese and two bishops, reminding the people also that the Church of Botswana though in Botswana is part of the Universal Church, hence the presence of the representative of the Pope, Archbishop Peter Wells, and in a special way part of the Church in Southern Africa. He added that the presence of the bishops there is to express their solidarity with the new bishop of Francistown. The President assured the new bishop the love, support and brotherhood of the other bishops, assuring him also prayers.
The Apostolic Nuncio, whose first visit as the apostolic nuncio almost six years ago was in Francistown, said it’s a blessing for him to come back to Francistown again after he was there to before when the diocese was elevated from the status of Vicariate to Diocese, and the installation of the then bishop, now Archbishop Frank Nabuasah. It was revealed by the Apostolic Nuncio that Bishop Rebello was shocked when he was told that the Holy Father has named him to be the new Bishop of Francistown, so much so that he asked to have a day to think about it.
“You come to Francistown, you bring the Word, the Word that has always been the source of your vocation, the Word that has always been at the heart of your entire ministry and you come to the people of Francistown to make it flesh,” said Archbishop Wells to the new bishop.
Showing the people his mother’s ring, which he wore on the left-hand, he told the story of how Pope Pius X’s mother told the new Pope how without the ring of the family he would not have had the ring of the bishop. He went on to thank God for all the blessing he and his family received. Going back to what the Nuncio had said about the shock of his naming as the bishop of Francistown Bishop Rebello said it was his heart that was weeping in answering the Nuncio’s wonder of whether he wept or not. The new bishop expressed the encouragement he felt because of the presence of other bishops there. Bishop Rebello thanked Archbishop Nubuash for his support ever since they came to Botswana together, thanking him for building a solid foundation in the Diocese for 21 years. “I have no family that has come here but I’ve got families from Botswana. Botswana has become my family because I am a citizen of Botswana,” noted Bishop Rebello. Encouraging the spirit of cooperation as team and family. Bishop Rebello said he is at peace because he got experienced people in sisters, priests and lay people who have talents and they will share.
The ordination video is available here