Zimbabwe’s longest-serving Roman Catholic priest Father Emmanuel Ribeiro has died.

He was 86.

Riberio died at St Annes hospital in Harare on Thursday morning, according to fellow priest and the church’s social communications director Father Reki Tendai Mashayamombe.

The cause of death was not disclosed.

Ribeiro was Chaplain-General of Zimbabwe’s prisons, military and police between 1978 and 1983.

Among the prominent people that he preached to behind the walls were the late former President Robert Mugabe, whom he considered a friend.

Born in 1935, Ribeiro went to St Francis Xavier’s Kutama College before he joined Chishawasha Seminary in 1952.

He went on to study philosophy in 1954 with his ordination as a diocesan priest being held on December 13, 1964.

He once worked in the ministry of education and was at one point the deputy director at the passport office.

Ribeiro was credited for the declaration of seven national heroes who died in the famous Chinhoyi battle that marked the beginning of the Second Chimurenga, Zimbabwe’s war of independence.

This was after he published a book and did the research which led to the recommendations that Simon Chimbodza, Christopher Chatambudza, Nathan Charumuka, Godwin Manyerenyere, Ephraim Shenjere, David Guzuzu and Arthur Maramba be accorded the honour.

He composed a majority of popular catholic hymns during his time as a parish priest and spent his last active role as a priest at Highfield Parish. -Zimlive