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Archbishop Emeritus of the Indian Ocean, French Kitchener Chang Him, has died aged 85

Posted on: May 30, 2023 2:09 PM
In December 2014, the then-British High Commissioner to Seychelles, Lindsay Kirk, presents the OBE to Archbishop French Chang-Him, watched by the Archbishop’s daughter Frances and grand-daughter Shannon
Photo Credit: UK High Commission to Seychelles

The former Bishop of Seychelles and Primate of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop Emeritus French Chang Him, died on Friday (26 May) at the age of 85, less than two weeks before he was due to celebrate the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. 

The current Bishop of Seychelles and Archbishop of the Indian Ocean, Archbishop James Wong, held a prayer service at Saint Paul’s Cathedral in Victoria, Mahé, on 21 May, as Archbishop French underwent emergency surgery after being hospitalised a fortnight ago. 

French Chang-Him was ordained to the priesthood in June 1963 after studying at Lichfield Theological College in Staffordshire, England. He undertook further studies at Saint Augustine’s College in Canterbury, England, and at Toronto University’s Trinity College in Canada.  

The Diocese of Seychelles was created in 1973. Its first bishop was an Englishman, Bishop George Briggs. In 1979 Bishop French succeeded Bishop George, becoming the first local Bishop of the Diocese. He continued to serve as Bishop of Seychelles until his retirement in 2004. Between 1984 and 1995, Bishop French served as Archbishop of the Indian Ocean and Primate of the Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean. He was given the title Archbishop Emeritus in 2014.  

Archbishop Emeritus French Chang-Him receives his OBE
Photo: Seychelles News Agency

In the same year, he was bestowed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) by Queen Elizabeth II for “services to reconciliation, human rights, charity, and democratic values and his invaluable service to British nationals in Seychelles, past and present”. 

“Seychelles is in deep mourning following the passing of Archbishop Emeritus, French Chang-Him”, the country’s President, Wavel Ramkalawan, an Anglican priest, told the Seychelles News Agency. “The country has lost a precious child, a man of deep faith, an obedient servant and a devoted father and grandfather. His departure leaves a void in the Anglican church, in our community and around the world. 

“As a man who believed in justice, Bishop French stood against any form of tyranny. He expressed himself openly against the abuse of human rights and was often the sole voice of the voiceless during the one-party years. He would give support to those whose loved ones were detained or whose children had disappeared, all while mourning the brutal death of his dear brother, Davidson Chang-Him, who was murdered on 5 June 1977. He paid the consequences for standing up in many ways.” 

He added: “his soft voice and gentle touch will be missed by everyone. He fought the good fight and was faithful to the end. May he be blessed with the gift of eternity as he is welcomed by the Saviour he served. May his soul rest in peace and rise in glory.” 

Archbishop James Wong said: “It is with sadness that we share with you that our Archbishop Emeritus French Kitchener Chang Him has gone to be with the Lord . . . trusting in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection.

“Please join us in prayer for his daughters Frances and Michelle and their respective families and all bereaved families as they go through the grieving process. 

“While our hearts are heavy with the news of Bishop French’s death, we know he is rejoicing with his Saviour in heaven. Our spirits are also lifted because of the Gospel that Bishop French so eloquently and regularly preached – that in Christ we have life everlasting, that one day every wrong will be made right, every tear will be wiped away, and we will live with our saviour in the new heavens and new earth.”