With sadness we announce the death yesterday evening, Sunday 31st January, of Fr Kidane Lebasi. Fr Kidane died peacefully at Queen’s Hospital, Romford, having been transferred from Charing Cross Hospital where he was admitted on 17th January. He had been living independently in retirement at St Joseph’s House, Brook Green.
Fr Kidane was born in March 1946 in Eritrea and ordained to the priesthood as a member of the Cistercian Order in the Cathedral in Addis Ababa in August 1975. He came to the London for ministry among Eritrean Gheez Rite Catholics and was incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Westminster in May 1995.
Sympathy is extended to Fr Kidane’s family and friends and to Eritrean Gheez Rite Catholics and their Chaplain, Fr Ephrem Andom, who will be saddened by his death.
The funeral Mass will take place on Thursday 18 March at 11am at Our Lady of Fatima, White City. Fr Ephrem Andom, Chaplain to Eritrean Gheez Rite Catholics, will preside and give the homily. The congregation is limited to 30 and there can be no invitation to concelebrate due to the current coronavirus restrictions. The Funeral Mass will be live streamed and information about this will be posted on the White City parish website. Burial at Mortlake Cemetery will follow the Funeral Mass.
We pray for the peaceful repose of Fr Kidane’s soul:
Hear with favour our prayers,
which we humbly offer, O Lord,
for the salvation of the soul of Fr Kidane, your servant and priest,
that he, who devoted a faithful ministry to your name,
may rejoice in the perpetual company of your saints.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.
Diversity is a feature of the Catholic and wider community in London. Many ethnic and national chaplaincies, and other chaplaincies engaged with Catholics of Eastern Catholic Churches, have a home in the Diocese of Westminster, helping the diocese to embrace diversity and promote inclusion. Fr Kidane Lebasi had a key role in this, serving as Chaplain to Eritrean Gheez Rite Catholics from 1988 to 2006. He was the founding father of what was to become a thriving chaplaincy, the Holy Redeemer Eritrean Catholic Gheez Rite Chaplaincy in London. The website, catholicgheez.org, provides information about the origin and purpose of the chaplaincy.
On 25th March 1946 Kidane Lebasi was born into a devout Catholic family in Embaderho, a small village nestled among hills, seven miles north of Asmara, the capital of Eritrea. The eighth of 11 children, he was baptized by a Cistercian priest. After primary education locally, Kidane went to study at the Cistercian Monastery in Asmara. He then went to study at the minor seminary, founded by the Cistercians in 1965, in the city of Karen. The seminary was dedicated to St Stephen Harding, the English monk from Sherborne who lived from 1050 to 1134, and one of the founders of the Cistercian Order. How could the young Kidane, or anyone else, know at that time that he would make his home in the land of his school’s patron’s birth? Kidane returned to Asmara to begin his novitiate with the Cistercian Order in August 1967, at the Monastery of the Assumption, taking the religious name Medhanie, meaning ‘Saviour’. Continuing studies and formation took Kidane to monasteries in Asmara and Mendida in Ethiopia. On 27th July 1975 he was ordained to the priesthood as a member of the apostolic, rather than contemplative, Cistercian Order at the Cathedral of the Nativity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by Archbishop Asrate-Mariam Yemiru. Ordinations of Cistercians usually took place in the Monastery of the Assumption in Asmara but the war at the time of Fr Kidane’s ordination precluded travel.
Father, or Abba, Medhanie Kidane Lebasi OSC was sent to Italy for further studies in moral theology at the Angelicum Pontifical University in 1976. In Rome he saw and responded to the needs of the Eritrean diaspora. He did what he could pastorally and sacramentally on his own initiative. Arrangements became more secure with the establishment of an Eritrean parish centred on the Church of San Tommaso in Parione with its own Parish Priest. In 1981 Fr Kidane, now fluent in Italian, came to London to study English at Hendon College and lived in the presbytery at Willesden Green until he went to live in the presbytery at Clapton in 1983, serving as Assistant Priest. In this new context he again noticed the needs of the Eritrean diaspora and responded by doing all he could to meet their needs, motivated by love of his people and pastoral zeal. In 1988, appointed as the first Chaplain to Gheez Rite Catholics, he went to live in the presbytery in the parish of St Francis of Assisi, Notting Hill where he and the Gheez Rite Catholics, many of whom were refugees, were made welcome for liturgy in the church and social, cultural and educational purposes in the parish hall and meeting rooms. On occasion the Gheez Rite calendar and that of the Latin Church coincided for the celebration of the Easter Vigil, giving the opportunity for a vibrantly inclusive and solemn celebration of diversity, recognizing the universality of God’s love for all. Fr Kidane lived in the presbytery until September 2002, ministering to Gheez and to Latin Rite Catholics. At home in the Diocese of Westminster, Fr Kidane committed himself to life-long service here following acceptance for incardination by Cardinal Basil Hume OSB in May 1995 with the blessing of the Abbot President of the Cistercian Congregation of Casamari.
The presbytery at Warwick Street was to be Fr Kidane’s next home, from September 2002, while continuing as Chaplain to Gheez Rite Catholics and also Assistant Priest of the parish. In July 2006 he retired as Chaplain, succeeded by Fr Ephrem Andom who is also a priest of the Diocese of Westminster. In August 2013 Fr Kidane went to live independently, supported by the diocese, at St Joseph’s House, Brook Green. He continued to provide supply ministry for both Gheez and Latin Rite Catholics, including weekly Mass on Tuesdays at Corpus Christi Shine, Covent Garden. After a short illness the Lord whom Fr Kidane knew and served called him home to heaven on 31st January 2021. At the age of 74 Fr Kidane died peacefully at Queen’s Hospital, Romford.
Fr Kidane will be remembered with gratitude for establishing the Gheez Rite Eritrean Chaplaincy, serving as Chaplain for 18 years, and as the founder of the Gheez Rite Saturday Supplementary School with which he was involved until his death. He helped to teach hundreds of children their tongue of heritage and he supported their academic pursuits to enable them to take their place in society. Fr Kidane was able to embrace people of different traditions, nationally and globally. He valued difference and was committed to justice and peace. He has a place in the hearts of many people in many places. He retained his love for his place of birth and upbringing, helping to raise funds for the new church, dedicated to Kidane Mihret (Mary, Covenant of Mercy) in Embaderho.
May Abba Kidane rest in peace and rise in glory.