Thousands of Catholics thronged the Roman Catholic Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Bulawayo yesterday to pay  last tribute to the late Father Ricardo da Villa, who died last Saturday  aged  66.

Fr. Ricardo of the Order of Spanish Missionary Institute (SMI), who was the parish priest at St Antony’s in a low density suburb of Barham Green,  succumbed to injuries he sustained in  a car accident several weeks before.

In his homily to the faithful that had congregated for the requiem mass Alex Thomas, the Archbishop of Bulawayo , said the death of Fr. Ricardo,  “an extremely organised pastor”, was a heavy blow to the Catholic Church.

“Fr Ricardo  always took the lead in resolving problems. He spoke what he felt with sufficient reasons. He was extremely honest and sincere with his words. He would accept the opinions of others for the good of the church,”said the prelate, who is himself a foreign missionary from India.

Among the dignitaries present at the requiem mass were the retired Archbishop of Bulawayo Henry Karlen, Bishop of Hwange Alberto Serrano and the Vice President of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Rev. Angelo Floro.

Fr Ricardo was born on 30 August 1944 in Spain and had been a Roman Catholic priest for 42 years. He served as a priest in Hwange Diocese at St Mary’s and other centres. In Bulawayo Diocese he had worked for 12 years. Among Fr. da Villa’s contributions to the Bulawayo community were the unification of parishioners at community level, payment of school fees for children in Barham Green, Montrose, Newton West and the surrounding suburbs.  He also regularly visited and prayed for the sick at Ingutsheni Hospital.