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Mabathoana

Mabathoana as a young priest with Bishop Klerlein C.S.Sp.
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Bishop Mabathoana
Bishop Mabathoana
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Mabathoana, Emmanuel Gregory
1904 to 1966
Catholic
Lesotho


Lesotho linguist and clergyman, who, on being consecrated the first Archbishop of Maseru and Metropolitan of Basutoland in 1961, became the first African head of the Catholic Church in the Southern Africa region. Archbishop Mabathoana was also the first African to serve on the executive of the Southern African Bishops' Conference.

A great grandson of King Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Basotho nation, which later became modern Lesotho, Mabathoana was born on 29 December 1904 in Mokhokhong in Roma, Lesotho. After primary education in Marist mission institutions he entered St. Joseph's Training College, also in Roma, before going into St. Teresa Seminary in 1924. In 1932 he made his oblate novitiate, and in June 1933 he was ordained, becoming the first Mosotho to enter into the priesthood, after the Reverend Raphael Mohasi.

He taught at the Minor Seminary and later at the Major Seminary where he spent a considerable number of years. He later went on to teach African languages at the Pius XII Catholic University College in Roma, after having completed further studies in Roma, London and at the Villa Novel University in America. His lectureship at the Pius XII University College lasted for eight years.

On the creation of the diocese of Leribe in December 1952, Mabathoana was elected the first bishop of the new Catholic diocese. His consecration, which took place on 25 March 1953, was performed at St. Mica's Mission in Maseru before an estimated crowd of over 15,000 members of the church and his countrymen. In January 1961 he was made the first Archbishop of Maseru and Metropolitan of Basutoland and was installed in April of that year. As archbishop of the new archdiocese, Mabathoana again became the first African South of the Zambezi to be elevated to such a position in the Catholic Church in the region. In June 1963, on the occasion of the centennial celebrations of the Catholic Church in Lesotho, Archbishop Mabathoana was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by the British Queen Elizabeth II.

He was proficient in Latin, Greek, Italian and German but his reputation as a linguist derived from the extensive work he did on all the major Southern African languages, which culminated in his translation of the Bible into Sotho. He also composed numerous hymns for the Catholic Sesetho Hymn Book. Earlier in 1956 he had served on the Basuland Council, which prepared the revised Southern Sotho Biography. He travelled extensively within his diocese and beyond, visiting numerous countries in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas on church business. In 1963 he visited Rome as a member of the Board of the Commission on Missions during the Vatican Council of that year. His visit to Bombay in India in December 1964 was on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress, where he preached on the Lay Apostolate.

Archbishop Mabathoana died on 19 September 1966, while traveling by plane from Maseru to Pretoria where he was to attend a meeting of the Southern African Bishops' Conference.

 


Sources Consulted Include:

* Africa Year Book and Who's Who (London: Africa Journal, 1977).
* Africa Today, first edition, (Denver, CO : Africa Today Associates, 1981).
* Africa Who's Who, first edition, 1981.
* Africa Who's Who, second edition, 1991 (published by Africa Books Ltd., U.K).
* Ralph Ewechue (ed.), Makers of Modern Africa, 2nd edition (London: Africa Books, 1991).
* Daily Times of Nigeria (Lagos).
* Nigeria Year Book, 1974, 1975, 1976-1978, 1979, 1980 (Lagos : Nigerian Printing & Publishing Co.).
* S. Decalo, Historical Dictionary of Togo, 3rd ed., (London : Scarecrow Press, 1996).
* Ralph Uweche, Africa Who's Who, 1991 (Lagos, Nigeria: Africa Book Ltd.).
* J. C. Choate, The Voice of Truth International, 1991, Vol. 21 (U.S.A.)
* E. EL Hadj-Omar, Who's Who In Africa Dictionary.
* In the Land of the Pharaohs- An introduction to a 1968 case study by Khalil Mahmud, 2nd ed., (London : Cass, 1968).
* L. H. Ofosu-Appiah, Dictionary of African Biography, volume on Ghana & Ethiopia, volume on Sierra Leone & Zaire, (New York : Reference Publications, 1977-).
* Cyril P. Foray, Historical Dictionary of Sierra Leone (London : Scarecrow Press, 1977).
* Gailey H. A., A History of Sierra Leone.
* I. Geiss, The Pan-African Movement (London : Methuen, 1974).
* L. C. Gwan, Great Nigerians.
* E. Kay (ed.), Dictionary of African Biography (London : Melrose Press, 1971-1972).
* Pan-Vegio Patriot Macdonald- H. Edward Wilmot
* R. K. Rasmussen, Historical Dictionary of Rhodesia Zimbabwe (London : Scarecrow Press, 1979).
* E. Rosenthal, Encyclopaedia of South Africa, 7th ed., (Cape Town : Juta, 1978).
* S. Ramgoolam, Seychelles Government Annual Reports.
* S. Taylor (ed.), The New Africans (London : Paul Hamlyn, 1967).
* V. Thompson and R. Adlof, Historical Dictionary of Congo (London : Scarecrow Press, 1996).
* Times Newspapers Ltd; Obituaries from the Times (Volume 1, 1961-1970; Vol.2, 1971- 1975)
* P. J. Vatikiotis, The History of Egypt, 3rd ed., (London : Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1985, c1969).
* H. Zell and H. Silver (eds.), A Reader's Guide to African Literature (London : Heinemann, 1972).
* H. Zell, C. H. Bundy and V. Coulon (eds.), A New Reader's Guide to African Literature, rev. ed., (London : Heinemann, 1983).

ARTICLES IN LEARNED JOURNALS
* Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria (Ibadan : Ibadan University Press): Vol. V Nos. 2 & 3, 1970, (Adeleye, R. A.).
* Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria (Ibadan : Ibadan University Press): Vol. VI Nos. 204, 1969, (Ekejiuba, F.).
* Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, "A Biographical Sketch," (Omu Okwei), (Ibadan : Ibadan University Press): Vol. III No 4, 1967.
* Journal of African History, (London : Cambridge University Press): Vol. V No 3, 194 (Hopkins A. G.).

PERIODICALS AND NEWSPAPERS CONSULTED
Africa (Tunis : Ministère des Affaires Culturelles et de l'Information, 1971 ff).
Africa Diary (Delhi : Africa Publications (India), 1961 ff).
Africa Research Bulletin (Africa Research Ltd), (Oxford : Blackwell, 1964 ff).
Ambassador International (Vol 211; 1985).
Commonwealth Currents (1978).
Guardian (London, s.n.).
Independent (London, s.n.).
The Times (London).
West Africa (London : West Africa Publishing, 1917).