By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
The late Bishop Emeritus of Gokwe Diocese, Angelo Floro Martinez I.E.M.E, who died in Gweru at the age of 83, was on Saturday 18 March 2023, interred at the Diocesan cemetery at Uganda Martyrs Mission in Gokwe. Thousands of people from all walks of life thronged Shingai Pastoral Centre to bid farewell to the man of a great smile, a father and a Bishop who transformed the lives of many people in Zimbabwe through his unselfish service.
Bishop Floro was described as a generous, God fearing and progressive man who unselfishly worked for the common good of ordinary men and women.
Bishop Floro’s wish was to be buried in Gokwe soils and this he expressed in his last will that was read by the Coordinator of SMI missionaries working in Zimbabwe, Fr. Joshua Del Barrio. His wish was finally fulfilled when his remains were entombed in the diocesan cemetery among other late priests of Gokwe.
Speaker after speaker praised the late bishop for his contribution to the development of Gokwe Diocese as witnessed by the number of schools, mission stations and humanitarian projects being implemented in the midlands diocese.
He is revered for his willingness to advance the status of African people particularly through education and poverty eradication, many said.
The President of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Paul Horan, confirmed Bishop Floro’s sturdy support in education saying his coming to Zimbabwe was indeed a blessing as he was a well-groomed educationist.
“He had many talents that benefited not only the Diocese of Gokwe but the entire local Church. Among his many talents, Bishop Floro’s most outstanding identity is that he was a well-groomed educationist. It is through this that he developed the education system in the Catholic educational institutions. His aptitude in educational matters saw him being appointed as the Diocesan Education Secretary for Gokwe from 1993 to 1998. After his episcopal ordination in 2000, Bishop Floro became the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference Chairman for the Education Commission, a position he held until his retirement,” said Bishop Horan.
Bishop Horan said Bishop Floro immensely contributed to the growth of the Catholic University of Zimbabwe and its faculties in many dioceses during his tenure as the Chairman for Education under ZCBC. He facilitated the crafting of Educational policies and the Child Safeguarding policy for the Catholic Schools.
According to Bishop Horan, the late Bishop worked tirelessly to promote unity among all people.
“When he was the President of the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 2011 to 2014, Bishop Floro encouraged evangelization and collaboration in mission. He promoted unity among all people regardless of their race, tribe, colour, creed, gender or political affiliation. I think this was influenced by his stay in a multilingual diocese of Gokwe where people co-exist despite their differences in language and backgrounds. Bishop Floro was a man of great memory and wisdom and would act as the encyclopedia of the Conference in all matters. He would remember things that most of us would have forgotten and helped Bishops to effectively deal with issues that affect the Church,” he said.
President Mnagagwa admonishes violence, calls for unity at Bishop Floro’s funeral
Addressing mourners at Bishop Floro’s funeral in Gokwe, Honourable Patrick Chinamasa, delivered a message of zero tolerance to violence. He said President Mnangagwa had instructed him to convey the message of peace, unity and non-violence before, during and after elections.
Hon. Chinamasa thanked the late Bishop Floro for being a good steward and for bringing enlightenment to Gokwe diocese which is now flourishing in education, agriculture and business. He said he knew Bishop Floro for many years as a peaceful man and as such government cherishes this by encouraging peace all the time.
Bishop Floro was born on 14 February 1940 in Ayna, Albacete, Spain. He was ordained to priesthood on 29 June 1965 and immediately came to Zimbabwe where he worked in Hwange Diocese. From 1993 to 1998, he was appointed as the Education Secretary of Gokwe Diocese. In April to November 1999, the then Fr. Floro became the Diocesan Financial Administrator. When Bishop Emeritus Michael Bhasera was transferred to Masvingo Diocese, Fr. Floro became the Apostolic Administrator of Gokwe from 1999 to 2000. He was elevated to episcopacy in 2000 and led Gokwe diocese until 2016 but remained Apostolic Administrator until 2017 when Bishop Rudolph Nyandoro was appointed as his successor.