YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – A Tanzanian priest killed July 19 in an apparent act of madness has been praised by his bishop as having served the church with “bravery” and “deep faith.”

Father Pamphili Nada “was a spiritual father, known for his deep faith and great commitment, eager to fulfill his responsibilities with zeal, dedication and courage,” said Bishop Anthony Gaspar Lagwen of Mbulu in a video message released on behalf of the Tanzanian bishops’ conference.

“It is only through strength that we will be able to accept his death,” Lagwen said.

Nada was killed by a man suspected to have mental impairments at the Our Lady Queen of Apostles Karatu Parish of Tanzania’s Mbulu Diocese in northern Tanzania. The man, identified as Leonard Romani, had entered the parish seeking to be prayed over, according to local media reports.

Security guards at the parish had initially barred Romani from entering the building, but they later allowed him access after Nada told them to do so, according to Azam TV. It was around 3:00 a.m. July 19 when the man entered the building.

“Upon entering the church building, Romani attacked the priest with a heavy and blunt object,” AZAM TV reported.

Benigna Francis, a journalist of the Mbulu diocese, provided a detailed account of the incident.

“After [Romani] entered and was alone with the priest, the man locked the door and took the iron object which was kept behind the door to protect the door from banging to the wall and hit the priest who was going to the altar. The guard heard the shouting of the priest and rushed to the church but the doors were locked from the inside, [so] he rushed to ring the church bell while shouting. Citizens gathered [and] broke the door and found the man continuing to hit the priest.”

Arusha Regional Police Commander-in-Chief Justine Masejo said the priest died as he was being taken to hospital. The mob then lynched the priest’s killer, he explained.

Lagwen called on the Christian community to “take heart” and rely on “the strength of faith”.

Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, the coadjutor archbishop of Tabora who’s set to be named a cardinal by Pope Francis Sept. 30, also commented on Nada’s death.

“People were deeply shaken by this sudden and tragic event,” he said in an interview with the Fides news agency.

Social media users, presumably Christians, wished the priest eternal rest.

  • @kwayaviwawaparokiyabashne9281 wrote: “May God maintain peace in our church, grant him Eternal Peace, O Lord, and eternal light, may he be buried in peace.”
  • @nyamizishija7565 prayed that God should give the late priest “eternal pleasure… let eternal light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.”
  • @RowiliMathew beseeched God to “comfort” the bereaved family and all believers.
  • @SharonRene36263 in a July 20 tweet said she was “terribly sorry” for the loss, with “the space he filled now empty upon the earth.”

Lagwen, the Mbulu bishop, said the late priest will be remembered by the way “he was in our midst as a man of service. “He will be a dependable intercessor before God for us.”

Nada was buried Saturday at the Sanu Parish cemetery of the Mbulu diocese. Mourners kept vigil Friday night and lit candles in honor of the fallen priest.

It is the third time a mentally deranged person has intruded into a church in Tanzania this year.

On February 27, Bishop Flavian Matindi Kassala of Geita Diocese was forced to institute a 20-day repentance period following the desecration of the Mary Queen of Peace Cathedral. He said an intruder stormed into the cathedral on the night of February 26, desecrated the Holy Eucharist and violated the Sacrament of the Holy Communion.

“It is a very serious destruction that has greatly affected the dignity and Catholic believers and the community as a whole,” Kassala said at the time.

“Throughout the period of repentance, all Catholic believers are invited to pray, fast, repent, receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation and ask for God’s mercy,” he said. “In all these actions, let us pray to God to grant us inner strength.”

On May 11, an individual broke the main door of St Charles Lwanga Cathedral in Kahama, but was almost immediately held from causing more harm by security guards.

“It is not clear what really prompted the man to act like this …” said Father Abraham Maziku, secretary to the Bishop of Kahama. “We continue to pray that God will protect us and strengthen the security measures in our parishes.”