Monday, 3 December 2012

Memorial Service For Three Catholic Members Killed

Bishop ADOLF G. SCHMITT, C.M.M.
 Born: April 20th, 1905. Rimpar. Germany.
 Professed: May 1st, 1927.
 Ordained Priest: March 19th. 1931
 Ordained Bishop: April 3rd. 1951
 Bishop of Bulawayo: 1951 to 1974.
 Died: December 5th, 1976.

Sister MARIA FRANCIS VAN DEN BERG, C.P.S.
 Born: June 27th, 1935, Cologne, Germany.
 Professed: August 15th. 1958.
 Died: December 5th, 1976

Father POSSENTI WEGGARTNER, C.M.M.
 Born: May 23rd. 1907. Pelkering, Germany.
 Professed: May 9th. 1929.
 Ordained Priest: April 10thf 1933
 Died: December 5th. 1976.

Almighty God, our Father, we firmly believe that your Son died and rose to life.
 We pray for our dead Brothers Adolf and Possenti and our Sister Maria Francis who have died in Christ.
 Raise them at the last day to share the glory of the risen Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
 One God, for ever and ever,
 Amen.

 "Anyone who loses his life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it."
 Mark 8:35




Nick Baalbergen (Intaf) Writes:-
Attached is a fairly detailed account of this particular terrorist massacre, which took place in the Lupane District of Matabeleland, between the Gwaai siding and the main Vic Falls road on 5 December 1976. Bishop Adolph Gregory Schmitt had been the had been the Catholic Bishop of Bulawayo until, 1974, when he officially retired from that position. The C.M.M. following his name indicates his affiliation to the "Congregation of Mariannhill Missionaries". The original Marianhill Mission was founded by Father (Later Abbot) Francis Pfanner, a Trappist monk from Germany. It was started in 1882 near Pinetown in Natal and has evolved into the significant complex it is today. Cecil Rhodes granted a tract of land to the Mariannhill Missionary Society in the Inyanga District in the late 1800's.

The C.P.S. following the name of Sister Maria Francis van den Berg, indicates her affliation to the "Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood", also a part of the Mariannhill Missionary Society founded by Father Francis Pfanner.

BISHOP SCHMITT AND HIS COMPANIONS
On December 5, 1976, a terrorist ambushed and killed the 71-year-old forrner Roman Catholic Bishop of Bulawayo, the Rt. Rev. Adolf Schmitt. Also killed in the same incident was a priest, Father Possenti Weggarten, and a nun, Sister Maria Francis van den Berg. The murders took place on a lonely dirt road near Lupane. 

First reports of the incident were summed up in a national newspaper next day:

The only survivor of the ambush was Sister Ermenfried Knauer, who was brought to Bulawayo last night and is recovering at the Mater Dei Hospital. 

She was shot in the left leg as she sought shelter under the bishop's car.

There was a stunned silence among worshippers at St. Mary's Cathedral during the 6 p.m. mass yesterday when news of the murders was announced from the pulpit by the parish priest, Father Elmar Mayr. 

Dr. Johanna Davis, medical superintendent of St. Luke's Mission Hospital, who led the Police to the scene of the murders, and later brought Sister Ermenfried to Bulawayo by ambulance, last night recounted Sister Ermenfried's eyewitness story. 

She said that the bishop's party were driving from their home mission, Regina Mundi, to St. Luke's Mission to visit a sick friend. 

On the road between Gwaai siding and the main Falls road a terrorist held them up and demanded money. 

According to Dr. Davis, Sister Ermenfried said: "We told him we had no money with us, that we were missionaries just out for the afternoon. 

"We said, 'If you really need money, come back with us to the mission and we will help you'." 

The terrorist replied that as we had no money he would have to shoot us. He began gunning us down, starting with the bishop. He riddled him with bullets. Then he mowed down the others." 

Sister Ermenfried said she presumed the terrorist thought she, too, was dead. He fired at her leg which was protruding from under the car. 

According to Sister Ermenfried, the terrorist was wearing a balaclava and camouflage uniform and carrying a machine-gun. 

The Catholic Bishop of Bulawayo, the Rt. Rev. Henry Karlen, who succeeded Bishop Schmitt, said: "It is unbelievable." 

He said he had told an African who was returning to the Geneva conference to give a message to Mr. Robert Mugabe and Mr. Joshua Nkomo. 

The message was: "Tell those two gentlemen what has happened and that I said, 'This is the reward for our work for Africans for working for them all our lives'."

The murders coincided with the ill-fated Geneva conference, and a newspaper report outlines reaction: 

Charges and counter-charges over the murders overshadowed the work of the settlement conference in Geneva yesterday. 

Two nationalist organizations - the Patriotic Front alliance and Bishop Abel Muzorewa's ANC - blamed the Rhodesian Army's Selous Scouts for the killings, while the Government delegation said the terrorist action should be taken as a warning about the future, Iana reports. 

Mr. Mark Partridge, Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, told reporters, when asked about the nationalist allegations: "If you believe that, you will believe anything." 
Mr. Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union said in a statement last night that it was "preposterous for us to be accused of murdering civilians".

The incident was clearly an embarrassment to the nationalist delegation at Geneva. A reporter summed-up by writing: 

Their vehement denial of terrorist involvement and the blame they have placed on Rhodesian security forces are being regarded with utter disbelief by most foreign journalists.

The only survivor of the massacre, Sister Ermenfried Knauer, said later that she would be prepared to accept the offer of a Rhodesian farmer to fly her to Geneva - where she could give evidence of the attack to any interested parties. 

A Press report stated:

The wounded nun, Sister Ermenfried Knauer said she was not in a fit condition to travel at the moment. She said there was no doubt in her mind that the attack was carried out by a terrorist. 

She dismissed black nationalist allegations made in Geneva that the atrocity was carried out by Rhodesian security forces. 

Interviewed in hospital the sister recounted the events of the terrorist attack. She said the terrorist twice shouted out the slogan "missionaries are enemies of the people" before he gunned down the missionaries. 

She said the terrorist was unable to look his victims in the eye as he was pulling the trigger and it was apparent that he had been taught anti-missionary slogans as part of his training.

On December 10, 1976, it was announced in the Press that Sister Knauer would not be permitted to visit Geneva:

Sister Ermenfriend Knauer, the nun who survived a terrorist attack in Lupane on Sunday, will not be going to Geneva after all because her Mother General will not give permission. 

And last night the farmer who made the offer to pay Sister Ermenfried's fare said he was very disappointed with the Mother General's decision, and asked if there was no higher authority that could reverse her order. 

"I want this nun to go to Geneva," he said, "I want her to confront the people there and tell them the truth about what happened to her."

Mother Adelberta Reinhart, the Mother General of the Missionary Sisters of the Precious Blood, said yesterday: "We are not going to enter into politics. They have more to do at Geneva now than talk to Sister Ermenfried. I would not allow her to go." 

Asked why Sister Ermenfried had said in an RTV-RBC interview at Mater Dei Hospital on Wednesday that she would go to Geneva, the Mother General said: "I think she only meant she is ready to give an answer." 

The farmer said: "I would like to remind the Mother General of my favourite quotation, 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

End

Source:
Memorial Service details by Diarmid Smith
Information pamphlet published by the Ministry of Information, Rhodesia in July 1978. The pamphlet was titled "The Murder of Missionaries in Rhodesia"

Thanks to Diarmid Smith and Nick Baalbergen for sharing their information with ORAFs.
  

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2 Comments:

At 5 December 2012 at 15:44 , Blogger Rhodesia Remembered said...

Skippy Michell (RhArmy) Writes:-

Re your posting on “Memorial Service For Three Catholic Members Killed”. The irony of it is that Mugabe is a staunch Catholic I believe??

 
At 8 December 2014 at 22:17 , Blogger Edward Rogers said...

There was a report in the Bulawayo Chronicle of 1 January 1977 that a man called Albert Ncube had been found and confessed to the killings of these missionaries and also to killing many other whites. He was taken to court in Bulawayo and found guilty. Then instead of being locked up in secure Khami Prison he was taken to prison in Victoria Falls from where he escaped.
This creates considerable suspicion about why he was taken to Victoria Falls near the border and not in a local maximum secure prison. It looks as though the whole affair could have been organised by a security arm of he Smith government. See my Memoirs, “Ted Rogers, Jesuit , Social Pioneer, and AIDS Activist in Zimbabwe”, Cluster Publications, Dorpspruit 3206, RSA. 2012.

 

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