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After Ethiopia’s Gambella Bishop Succumbed to COVID-19, Vicariate Gets Administrator

Fr. Tesfaye Petros Botachew, the Apostolic Administrator of Gambella Vicariate.

Following the demise of Bishop Angelo Moreschi of Ethiopia’s Gambella Vicariate, the first Catholic Prelate known to have died of COVID-19, an Apostolic Administrator has been appointed for the missionary ecclesiastical territory in the Western part of the country that is dependent upon the Vatican-based Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The Apostolic Nuncio in Ethiopia, Archbishop Antoine Camilleri, announced the appointment of Fr. Tesfaye Petros Botachew as the Apostolic Administrator of Gambella Vicariate in his April 3 letter.

“By virtue of the special faculties given to it by the Holy Father Pope Francis, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples has appointed Reverend Father Tesfaye Petros Botachew Apostolic Administrator sede vacante et ad nutum Sanctae Sedis of the Apostolic Vicariate of Gambella,” Archbishop Camilleri wrote, pointing to the current status of Gambella as a pre-diocesan jurisdiction immediately dependent upon the Vatican.

In the letter, the Nuncio announced that Fr. Tesfaye will oversee the administration of the Vicariate “until such time as an Apostolic Vicar will be appointed” and assured the Ethiopian-born cleric “our fraternal support and our prayers in the accomplishment of his new task.”

Fr. Tesfaye has been serving as Vicar General under the late Bishop Moreschi since the latter’s appointment as Apostolic Vicar of Gambella in 2009.

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In the last 15 years of his ministry as a priest, the 42-year-old cleric has been actively involved in pastoral activities in Gambella, being at the helm of the Pastoral Center and as Parish Priest, engaged in first evangelization in the villages that saw him establish new mission centers.

Bishop Moreschi who served as Vicar Apostolic of Gambella died of COVID-19 on March 25 in Brescia, a city in Italy’s Lombardy region that has borne the brunt of the Coronavirus disease in the European country.

He had been undergoing treatment for heart and kidney complications for the last four years before contracting COVID-19 that has claimed at least 74,000 lives globally.

A member of the religious institution of the Salesians of Don Bosco, the Italian-born Prelate had been a missionary in Ethiopia since 1991. He had been appointed Prefect of Gambella in the year 2000; he was ordained Bishop in January 2010.

“In his mission as prefect and then as apostolic vicar, he continued to embody the Salesian focus in helping children, accompanying them by his practical spirit and his strong apostolic zeal,” the Salesians of Don Bosco reported, acknowledging his dedicated pastoral service to the poor and young people of Ethiopia.

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Bishop Moreschi died at the age of 67 “after serving the young, the poor and his flock of souls as a Salesian for 46 years, as a priest for 38, and as a bishop for over 10.”