Pope Francis Eulogizes Lesotho’s First-ever Cardinal as Promoter of Priestly Vocations

The late Sebastian Koto Cardinal Khoarai of Lesotho/ Credit: IMBISA

Pope Francis has paid tribute to the first-ever Cardinal in the Southern African nation of Lesotho, Sebastian Cardinal Koto Khoarai, remembering the Church leader who died April 17 aged 91 for his commitment to promoting vocations to the priesthood.

In his Tuesday, April 20 telegram message addressed to Bishop John Tlhomola of Lesotho’s Mohale’s Hoek Diocese, the Holy Father says he learnt of the death of Cardinal Khoarai, the predecessor of Bishop Tlhomola, “with sadness.”

“With gratitude for Cardinal Khoarai’s witness of consecrated life as an Oblate of Mary Immaculate (OMI), his longstanding commitment to the promotion of vocations to the Priesthood and his dedication to the Church’s Educational Apostolate in Lesotho, I willingly join you in praying that our heavenly Father may grant him the reward of his tireless labors and welcome his noble soul into the joy of His eternal kingdom,” Pope Francis says in his message.

The Holy Father goes on to express his “heartfelt condolences” to the Local Ordinary, members of the Clergy, Religious and the Laity of Mohale’s Hoek Diocese following the passing on of the Cardinal.

“To all who mourn the late Cardinal’s passing in the sure hope of the resurrection, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of the consolation and peace in Jesus Christ our savior,” the Pontiff adds.


Cardinal Khoarai who had been been diagnosed with cancer of the throat passed on at OMI’s residence for the sick and elderly members of the Religious Order, Mazenod House, the Secretary General of the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference (LCBC), Fr. Hosea Chale had told ACI Africa April 19.

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

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

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

The late Catholic Church leader who had handed in his retirement letter earlier retired in February 2014 at the age of 84. He was elevated to the rank of Cardinal in November 2016.

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In the April 19 interview with ACI Africa, the Secretary General of LCBC credited the late Cardinal for bringing the Southern African nation to the global arena.

Recalling the 2016 elevation of the Bishop emeritus of Mohale's Hoek to the rank of Cardinal, Fr. Chale said, “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 added.

The Mosotho Cleric also recalled other qualities of the late Catholic Church leader saying, “The Cardinal was humble person, soft-spoken, welcoming and someone you could easily interact with.”

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


The late Catholic Church leader is expected to be laid to rest at St. Patrick’s Cathedral of Mohale's Hoek Diocese.

Magdalene Kahiu is a Kenyan journalist with passion in Church communication. She holds a Degree in Social Communications from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa (CUEA). Currently, she works as a journalist for ACI Africa.