No less than 3,000 people gathered on Wednesday to attend the funeral of Jef Hollanders, the 83-year-old priest originally from Flanders who was found murdered in his home in South Africa on 13 January.
The funeral took place at the Klerksdorp cathedral in the town of Bodibe in South Africa and saw no less than 100 priests, some of whom were close colleagues and students of Hollanders, attend.
“Father Joseph led a sober life… [even in old age] he was still enthusiastic, he wanted to build another church and renovate another one. He did not hesitate to go to remote areas to visit the sick and elderly,” bishop of Klerksdorp, Victor Phalana, noted during the ceremony.
“This many people have never been here for a funeral,” Hollanders’ cousin, who attended the funeral, told Nieuwsblad.
The 83-year-old priest is believed to be the victim of an armed robbery that went wrong,” VRT explains, adding that there had been a recent wave of muggings and robberies in the area. Authorities suspect that the priest died from strangulation.
The day after the priest’s body was discovered, authorities arrested a 20-year-old man who was found in possession of the priest’s phone.
Authorities have more recently arrested a second suspect in connection with the murder.
“We still can’t understand it,” said Hollanders’ niece.
The 83-year-old priest, originally from Flanders, had worked as a missionary in South Africa since 1965.
The Brussels Times