This Catholic missionary was born on September 5, 1915 in Paris, France, to parents who were merchants. After his secondary studies, he began his training for the priesthood at the seminary of Versailles, before finally entering the novitiate of the Congregation of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit in Orly. He was ordained a priest on August 10, 1941.
A Missionary in Senegal
The following year, in 1942, during the Second World War, he went on a mission to Dakar, after a difficult passage in the “free zone”. He was taken at the end of the crossing in the landing of the allied troops in Oran in Algeria. He was mobilized only a few days before taking his appointment in Senegal. Upon his arrival in the capital of French West Africa, he was appointed procurator of the Apostolic Vicariate of Dakar.
Vicar of the Bush
He was assigned for a time to the city of Kaolack, located 200 kilometers southeast of Dakar, as an apostolic worker where he worked on the construction and solidification of the only parish in the city. He then exercised his priestly ministry and his mission in Diourbel about 150 kilometers east of Dakar in the heart of marabou territory. This first stay in Senegal lasted four years until 1946, the year he was recalled to France to occupy the position of Deputy Attorney General at the headquarters of the Congregation of the Fathers of the Holy Spirit in Paris under the orders of Father Letourneur.
Auxiliary Bishop in Dakar
In 1948, Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, appointed Apostolic Vicar of Dakar the previous year, became Apostolic Delegate for French Africa. He felt the need for an auxiliary to help him in the administration of the diocese of Dakar since his functions as apostolic delegate often led him to travel across French Africa in the dioceses, vicariates, and apostolic prefectures which were under his authority. Having noticed Father Guibert’s skills, abilities, and administrative qualities, Archbishop Lefebvre requested and obtained his appointment, in 1949, to help him in his task in Dakar.
As Auxiliary Bishop, Georges Guibert tirelessly traveled by car through outposts and missions in the bush, meeting his fellow priests to inquire about their material and spiritual needs, and listening to the people in each diocese. In this way, he came to be decorated with the nickname of the “rolling” bishop. Georges Guibert was in charge of the administration and the material organization of the diocese of Dakar, which led him to make pastoral visits and confirmation tours while his “boss” criss-crossed French Africa to attend to his pontifical functions as Apostolic Delegate.
During his years in Senegal, he was very dedicated and always ready to serve his missionaries and the people of the country. His great regret, he said, was not being able to express himself in the local languages of Senegal to engage in conversation as he would have liked, with the inhabitants of the country. His bishop, Mgr Marcel Lefebvre, would later say he was happy to have had an assistant who served with so much devotion and abnegation.
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Réunion
In 1960, the functions of the Apostolic Delegate came to an end with the independence of the former French colonies, which led Archbishop Lefebvre to focus only on his diocese. That was when Georges Guibert, relieved of his auxiliary duties in Dakar, was appointed bishop of Saint-Denis de la Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
He arrived in this overseas department of France at a time when society was divided by the debate over whether the colonies should undergo departmentalization, autonomy, or independence, a debate which the clergy in Réunion did not escape. The bishop refused to block the Church with a political choice. On the ecclesiastical level, he gave new impetus to diocesan catechesis and encouraged relations between Catholics from the various islands in the south-west of the Indian Ocean. He also contributed to the launch of the Episcopal Conference of the Indian Ocean. It was on his initiative that the Brothers of Saint-Jean-de-Dieu established themselves on the island. At a time when priestly vocations were scarce, he managed to ordain twenty priests during his episcopate.
In 1969, he created the Réunion Chaplaincy in Paris to help the people from Réunion in France to integrate into the social and pastoral fabric of the Metropolis. It was a way for him to offer support to Réunionese living in France.
After fifteen years at the head of the Catholic Church of Réunion Island, Georges Guibert left his seat in 1975, the year of his 25 years of episcopate in order to, he said, make way for a younger one. He then returned to metropolitan France.
Upon his return, he was appointed chaplain in a clinic of the Brothers of Saint-Jean-de-Dieu. He then spent his retirement with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Paris. He died on September 30th, 1997, at the age of 82. He is buried in Chevilly.
Raphaël Lambal, MAP.
- Tissier de Mallerais, Bernard. Marcel Lefebvre, une vie. Étampes: Clovis, 2002, 196.
- This conference today brings together the Apostolic Vicariate of the Comoros archipelago also covering the French island of Mayotte, the diocese of Port-Louis in Mauritius, the diocese of Saint-Denis on the island of Réunion, the Diocese of Port-Victoria in the Seychelles and the Apostolic Vicariate of Rodrigues Island.
De Benoist, Joseph Roger. Histoire de l’Église catholique au Sénégal : du milieu du xve siècle à l’aube du troisième millénaire. Dakar/Paris: Karthala, 2008.
Tissier de Mallerais, Bernard. Marcel Lefebvre, une vie. Étampes: Clovis, 2002.
Mensuel. Horizons Africains, Dakar: November 1957.
https://www.mi-aime-a-ou.com/monseigneur_guibert.php (accessed 22 August 2023).
https://www.catholic-hierarchy.org/bishop/bguibert.html (accessed 22 August 2023).
This article was written by Raphaël Lambal, MAP, who is the Academic Management Coordinator at TÉLUQ University, Quebec (Quebec) G1K 9H6, Canada www.teluq.ca. Translation by Luke B. Donner, the DACB Research Assistant and PhD student at Boston University at the Center for Global Christianity and Mission.