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Late Cardinal of Lesotho “made our country known”, Cleric Says in Tribute

Lesotho's Sebastian Koto Cardinal Khoarai who died on 17 April 2021. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A member of the Clergy in Lesotho has, in his tribute to late Sebastian Cardinal Koto Khoarai, credited the first-ever Cardinal in the Southern African nation for bringing the country to the global arena.

The emeritus Bishop of Mohale’s Hoek in Lesotho who died Saturday, April 17 at the age of 91 had been elevated to Cardinal in November 2016.

Recalling the elevation of member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), the Secretary General of the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC), Fr. Hosea Chale told ACI Africa Monday, April 19, “He was the first Cardinal in the country and Lesotho being the small country it is, it is not known in many parts of the world.”

“In 2016, when the news came that he was among the Cardinals named by the Pope, people were curious to know where Lesotho is.  He made our country known in the world,” Fr. Chale who has been serving as the Secretary General of LCBC since 2014 further said.

The Mosotho Cleric shared details of Cardinal Khoarai’ s death saying, “The Cardinal died on Saturday the 17th around 1 pm at the Mazenod House, the house of the Oblates for the sick and elderly members of their congregation.”

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The late Cardinal, Fr. Chale disclosed, “had been diagnosed with cancer of the throat.”

“The Bishops have already informed the Nuncio, His Majesty the King of Lesotho, IMBISA (Inter-Regional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa) and SECAM (The Symposium of Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar) of the Cardinal’s death,” the Secretary General of LCBC further said. 

Born in September 1929 in Lesotho’s Diocese of Leribe, Cardinal Khoarai professed as a member of OMI in January 1951 and ordained a Priest in December 1956.

As a Cleric, he served as the first National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) in Lesotho, an Assistant to the Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity in the country, Provincial of OMI, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Maseru, among others services.

In November 1977, Pope Paul VI appointed the late Church leader as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Mohale's Hoek. He was ordained as a Bishop in April 1978.  

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After serving as the Bishop of Mohale's Hoek for 28 years, the late Cardinal handed his resignation to the Pope. However, he continued serving as the Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese that is part of the Ecclesiastical Province of Maseru until February 2014 when Pope Francis accepted his retirement, appointing Bishop John Joale Tlhomola as his successor. 

In the April 19 interview, Fr. Chale described the late Cardinal who he first interacted with when he joined the education department of the LCBC in 2010 as “a humble person, soft-spoken, welcoming and someone you could easily interact with.”

“Through his experience, he was a knowledgeable person,” Fr. Chale recalled the late Cardinal, adding, “We would consult him for the history of the Church and many other things.”

The Cleric described the late Cardinal as a hardworking person saying, “During his tenure as the Bishop of Mohale's Hoek, he initiated a lot of development projects.”

Among the late Cardinal’s notable projects is the ongoing construction of what is expected to be the biggest Church in Lesotho, Fr. Chale told ACI Africa, adding that the Cardinal “retired while having initiated the project to build a big Church in his Diocese, Mother of all the Churches in the country.”

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“Once completed, this is going to be the biggest Church in the country,” Fr. Chale said in reference to the initiative of the late Cardinal who had been at the helm of Mohale's Hoek for close to four decades. 

In an April 18 message, the leadership of IMBISA, the nine-member nation regional body that includes Lesotho, acknowledged receiving “the sad news of the death of Sebastian Koto Cardinal Khoarai, O.M.I.”

“The IMBISA Secretariat implores God's mercy for this faithful servant who spent all his life and energies in the vineyard of the Lord as well as praying for consolation for all who mourn his death,” officials of the regional Conference that brings together six Bishops’ Conferences say in their April 18 statement.

Conferences that constitute IMBISA include the Episcopal Conference of Angola and São Tome & Principe (CEAST), Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC), Mozambique Catholic bishops’ Conference (CEM), Namibia Catholic Bishops Conference (NCBC), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), and the Southern African Catholic Bishops (SACBC) that is made up of Botswana, Swaziland and South Africa.

Funeral arrangements for the late Cardinal are still ongoing, the Secretary General of LCBC told ACI Africa, adding that while the date for the burial is yet to be set, the late Catholic Church leader is expected to be laid to rest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral of Mohale's Hoek Diocese.

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