Information reaching the executive office of the Director of Communications of RECOWA-CERAO from the Correspondent of RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA based in Freetown signaled that Plans Underway to Fly the Remains of an Italian Catholic Bishop to Sierra Leone for Burial

To fulfill one of Bishop Giorgio Biguzzi’s wishes, plans are underway to bring the remains of the bishop who died on Monday, July 1 to Sierra Leone for burial. Bishop Biguzzi died peacefully in Parma, Italy, after serving the people of God in Sierra Leone for 38 years, including the 25 years he served as Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Makeni. The University of Makeni (UNIMAK) which the Italian Bishop founded, has revealed that the Bishop was specific about where he wished to be laid to rest.

 “As one of his (Bishop Biguzzi’s) dying wishes, plans are underway to bring his remains back to Makeni for burial. Details regarding the funeral arrangements will be communicated in due course,” the university said in a press statement on Tuesday, July 2.

A source in Sierra Leone told ACI Africa on Wednesday, July 3, that the current Bishop of Makeni, Bishop Bob John Hassan Koroma, is already in Italy for preparations to possibly fly the body of the Bishop Emeritus to Sierra Leone. Accompanying Bishop Koroma is a member of the staff of UNIMAK. Bishop Koroma was not immediately available to comment on his predecessor’s burial arrangements.

In its tribute to Bishop Biguzzi, UNIMAK described the late Bishop who died aged 88 as having been a visionary leader whose dedication and tireless efforts were instrumental in the establishment and growth of the university. “His visionary leadership and commitment to education have shaped the foundation upon which our institution stands today,” said Shebora Samba Kamara, the university’s Director of Public Relations said.

She added, “On behalf of the University of Makeni community, we extend our heartfelt condolences to Bishop Biguzzi’s family, the Makeni Diocese, and all those whose lives he touched with his remarkable leadership and unwavering faith.”

Born on 4 February 1936 in the Diocese of Cesena, Italy, Bishop Biguzzi was ordained a Priest of Xaverian Missionary Fathers in October 1960 after completing his Priestly formation.

As a priest, he served in various positions, including his assignment to the United States Circumscription in 1962, where he remained until 1973.

In 1974 he was assigned to Sierra Leone, where from 1975 to 1977 he was rector of the Minor Seminary of the Diocese of Makeni and at the same time held the position of regional vice of the Xaverian Circumscription of Sierra Leone. From 1977 to 1983 he was Regional Superior.

In 1984 he was a parish priest in Lungi. He was recalled, in the same year, to Italy as Master of Novices, in Ancona, until 1987, the year in which he was elected bishop of Makeni. The Bishop served the Diocese until his retirement in January 2012 after which he relocated to his native country.

Bishop Biguzzi, however, remained close to the people of God in Sierra Leone who he had journeyed with as the country experienced its worst civil war that ended in 2012.

The Bishop experienced the effects of the 11-year civil war and was at some point kidnapped together with aid workers who were working to alleviate the people’s suffering.

In one of his latest visits to Sierra Leone, Bishop Biguzzi was present, in a wheelchair, at the 13 May 2023 ordination of Bishop Koroma. The Church in Sierra Leone has eulogized Bishop Biguzzi as a “testament to faith” for serving diligently through Sierra Leone’s years of conflict.

In a note shared with the media on Monday, July 1, Fr. Peter Konteh, the Executive Director of Caritas Freetown also acknowledged Bishop Biguzzi’s “compassion and dedication to the service of God and humanity.”

Fr. Konteh has also acknowledged the contribution of Bishop Biguzzi to the development of the local church in Sierra Leone, saying, “Your leadership and support during the difficult moments of our civil war will always be remembered and appreciated. You were a true servant of God and an inspiration to many.”.

Old students of UNIMAK have also paid their tribute to “a spiritual leader within the Catholic Church, a beloved figure in our community, and an instrumental force in Sierra Leone’s recovery and reconciliation following the civil war.”

Bishop Biguzzi’s “dedicated service to others, his unwavering faith, and his compassionate leadership”, the Unimak Alumni Association (UAA) have said, “have left an indelible mark on all who knew him.”

The Alumni association notes that as Chancellor of the University of Makeni, Bishop Biguzzi played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of Sierra Leone.

“His vision and commitment to education and human development have inspired countless students and alumni and provided a guiding light for many members of the UAA. His legacy of pursuing excellence and serving humanity with compassion and integrity will continue to motivate us,” says Alhaji Sesay, the Secretary General of the alumni association.

“We sincerely appreciate the sacrifice and dedication Bishop Biguzzi exhibited throughout his life. His contributions to the Catholic Mission, to Sierra Leone, and to humanity at large are immeasurable. We are grateful for the lasting impact of his extraordinary service, which will continue to guide and inspire us,” the UAA official says in the association’s July 2 tribute.

Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu