Mugabe praises Fr Ribeiro

HARARE - Father Francis Ribeiro, a Roman Catholic Priest who detested colonial rule in Rhodesia, has been recognised by President Robert Mugabe as a witness to Christian freedom despite persecution.

The 79-year-old cleric, ordained priest in 1964 at 29 after going through 12 years of priesthood training at the Chishawasha Major Seminary, was a living example that in Christ you are a free man and you cannot be enslaved even if you are persecuted, speaker after speaker said.

The priest, who received his calling in 1952, is also a novelist who authored popular books such as Tonderai, Ndakaitei and Muchadura and was part of the team that designed the Zimbabwean flag between 1979 and 1980. He also helped in the composition of Zimbabwe’s national anthem between 1988 and 1989.

The Mass of his Golden Jubilee was celebrated last Sunday at the Liturgical Mass at St Peters in Highfield in Harare led by Archbishop Marek Zalewski, the Apostolic Nuncio to Zimbabwe, and was attended by hundreds of faithful Zimbabweans.

Fr Ribeiro was a liberation time stalwart who took in Mugabe and backed guerrillas fighting to dislodge British colonial rule.

Mugabe, who deployed ZDF commander general Constantine Chiwenga to deliver his speech, described Fr Ribiero as a war time hero.

During Zimbabwe’s 70’s liberation struggle, most Catholic priests who backed guerrillas were humiliated, had their property confiscated; some bishops and priests were imprisoned and killed, seminarians were tortured, lay Christians were forced to renounce the Catholic faith, schools and churches were closed and seized, and religious liberty was suppressed.

Mugabe, a practicing Catholic, said there were also bishops and priests of the Romanian Church who courageously opposed the abuse of the colonialists, and most of them ended up in prison or poisoned.

“President vedu vachienda kuMozambique vakapfuura nemumaoko mababa Ribeiro, vazhinji manga musingazvizivi. Mumba mavakabva kuno kuHighfield vakagara mumba mababa Ribeiro (When president Mugabe went to Mozambique, he passed through Fr Ribeiro’s hands, most of you were not aware of this. He stayed in Fr Ribeiro’s house while in Highfield),” Chiwenga said.

“Right now we are in the process of compiling the history of the liberation struggle, how it started and what exactly happened and among the people we are working with is Fr Ribeiro because he has the history of what really transpired. We work hand in glove with the church and when you see us clad in our camouflage, don’t think that we don’t go to church, we worship the God of war.”

Mugabe’s proxy recounted Fr Ribiero’s life, and said everyone can learn from his example that each one of us is called to serve Jesus Christ. After recounting his life, Chiwenga reflected on three aspects of his pastoral charity: an ecumenical heart; his active involvement in serving guerrillas, the sick, and those wounded in war; and his unstinting passion.

The multi-talented Catholic clergyman also contributed to the development of the Catholic Liturgical Music Zimbabwe in 1961 and founded and formed the Composer Association in 1967. He composed over 40 Catholic liturgical songs that include Mwari Ngaarumbidzwe (The Gloria) and Uya Mweya Musiki. In 1981 he was in charge of the Liturgical Music during the Zimbabwe papal visit of Pope St John Paul II.

“We want to thank mainly His Excellency, the papal representative in Zimbabwe, for coming to honour our illustrious sons of Zimbabwe who has done a lot for the people of Zimbabwe,” Chiwenga said.

“Every person here who has met Fr Ribeiro will always remember him for all what he has done. To Fr Ribeiro, surely we salute you and we say thank you, thank you and may the Lord bless you and give you many more years.”

Martin Dinha, provincial governor and resident minister of Mashonaland Central, pledged five beasts as part of his gift to Fr Ribeiro.

Romeo Chirenje, chairman of the Zimbabwe Association of Diocesan Clergy (Zadic) said Fr Ribeiro was a special blessing to the Catholic Church and country. He said Fr Ribeiro became an example of evangelical witness through his dignity, forgiveness of his persecutors, spiritual support of the comrades, and intense prayer life. He upheld his example of faith and prayer.

“Fr Emmanuel Ribeiro, you are a special blessing to the church in Zimbabwe and to the country at large,” Chirenje said.

In his thanksgiving speech, Fr Ribeiro said the celebrations belonged to the congregation, for they made him the person he is today.

“The day is not mine but it’s yours. The congratulations are not mine, they are yours,” he said.

“Whatever we do and put our hands on, and everything we plan if there is no God’s hand, they get nowhere.

“I thank God always that his hand continues to be on me. I thank you all who are here today.”

Fr Ribeiro’s Golden Jubilee celebrations also saw four other priests being remembered and honoured for their long service to the church.

These are Fr William Makusha (53 years of service) Fr Brandon Cornway (52), Fr Sebastian Chifeya (51) and Monsignor Matthew Mhishi (52).

Comments (16)

Is this Father Ribeiro happy with what is happening now?

Musona - 17 December 2014

Please reporter, get your facts right. He is not Francis Ribeiro but Emmanuel Ribeiro. If you have any one of the novels that you have mentioned you will clearly see that the name is Emmanuel, not Francis. Do not misinform the lovers of Zimbabwean literature in indigenous languages, of which Shona is one.

Chengetanai - 17 December 2014

Right now we are in the process of compiling the history of the liberation struggle, how it started and what exactly happened and among the people we are working with is Fr Ribeiro because he has the history of what really transpired. We work hand in glove with the church and when you see us clad in our camouflage, don't think that we don't go to church, we worship the God of war.” - more like revisonist history where it all begins and ends with Zanu.

Galore 123 - 17 December 2014

What has Father Ribeiro got to say about the 80 000 unarmed civilians slaughtered by Zanu in the 1980s in Gukurahundi? What has he got to say about ZanuPF stealing elections or Mugabe accusing other people of witchcraft? What has he got to say about the deterioration of people's lives under Mugabe? The oppression by ZanuPF? The rampant corruption by ZanuPF? Why does he not come out and condemn ZanuPF for misrule? Why is he quiet now when he was outspoken before Zanu came to power? Is he afraid of Zanu and Mugabe?

Musona - 17 December 2014

Yes, indeed, the real name is Emmanuel Ribeiro, not Francis. Reporters should endeavour to do simple research. Fr Ribeiro befriended many political prisoners, including Mugabe, because he used to smuggle documents and messages from prison and pass them to the nationalists outside prison. The recording of the involvement of different church denominations and priests to the liberation struggle has not yet even begun. The colonialists allowed priests of all sorts of denominations access to political prisions in the hope that they would persuade the prisoners to be Christians and accept the 'civilizing' colonial mission. The imprisoned nationalists used them by trusting them with all sorts of secret information to take to the outside world....And by the way, it is the Roman Catholic Church, not the Romanian Church. As his former editor at Mambo Press, I won't go into the debate about his literary works, but a good journalist should have taken the trouble to interview people who worked with Fr Ribeiro for a more in-depth piece.

Chenjerai Hove - 17 December 2014

ndizvinotadza kunzwisiswa nevamwe kuti vana father ava vakanga vakasiyana nana smith. ndivo vaka dzidzisa people like mugabe not smith. i do not remember any scholarships that smith sponsored save for one who did colonialism diploma.

taurai - 17 December 2014

Vafundisi ndivo vaitsvaka mari yokubhadharira vanhu vose vaifunda vari mujeri. Missionaries were important in the education of prisoners in colonial Rhodesia. An organization called ZACRO was crucial in getting prisoners to learn and get an education in prison. Red Cross too, they helped people to study in prison.. But when some people came out of prison and gained power, they ptetended that the churches were an enemy. We know that those political prisoners would never have been able to afford the fees to study with the University of South Africa, or London University. The sad thing is that currently, political prisoners of our government are not even allowed a book near them. Sad!

Chenjerai Hove - 17 December 2014

This man is a hero in his own way.

sir Jephy - 18 December 2014

where is the limping donkey right now?

bho bho the maker! - 18 December 2014

He is an exemplary Priest. I am impressed by his humility, dedication to work and his compositions and effort in improving the catholic music. He is a frank person. I am sure Fr is not happy with the current political situation although he has high regards for Mugabe . H e might not be not say it but I am sure he is not happy even with the way the opposition approaches its business. He talks positively of Mugabe but he is aware of the new Mugabe and his dirty tricks and for same fear we all have, he cant criticize him publicly. I hope one day he will talk to him and knock some sense in him.

Inos Chimire - 18 December 2014

mugabe and his priest are the same as the gods and the devils they walk bloody hands in hands.

jack - 19 December 2014

I remember even the late archbishop Patrick Chakaipa's great respect for Mugabe but the latter ignored advice.Fr.Ribeiro could also be trying his best advising Mugabe who may well ignore everything as usual. Bishop Lamont was deported by the Smith regime but still could not return after independence most probably because of misrule perpetuation. Independence here is only for well connected Mugabe bootlickers.

TAMANDAI - 19 December 2014

Fr Emmanuel Ribeiro is really a true man of God who has left great legacy to the roman cotholic church in Zimbabwe and the country at large. Fr Ribeiro has wisdom from God and that has been proven.

musician - 12 June 2015

he is a hero rebeiro

kulan - 25 January 2016

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