Hugo de Waal

The Rt Rev Hugo de Waal, former Bishop of Thetford, has died, aged 71. Bishop Hugo was born in Java, where he lived until he was 10.

The Rt Rev Hugo de Waal, former Bishop of Thetford, has died, aged 71.

Bishop Hugo was born in Java, where he lived until he was 10. During the Japanese invasion of Java, his father Bernard, an executive with Shell, was taken prisoner and his family spent a year in Australia as refugees.

The family moved to Sussex when Bishop Hugo was 13, and started attending church every Sunday to give thanks to God that they were reunited and had survived the war.

Bishop Hugo, who went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, had planned to become a doctor but was called to the ministry after he attended a Billy Graham mission.


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He was ordained in 1960 and spent 20 years as a parish priest in Birmingham, Cambridge and Blackpool before becoming principal of Ridley Hall Theological College, Cambridge, where he himself had trained and met his wife Brigit .

He took British citizenship in 1984 but retained the hint of a Dutch accent. In 1992 he became the first bishop to be consecrated by then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, succeeding the Rt Rev Timothy Dudley-Smith as Bishop of Thetford in the Diocese of Norwich.

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He is remembered as a dedicated and hard-working pastoral bishop who took great trouble in making clerical appointments and cared for the clergy, and as a sound preacher and teacher who was frustrated by increasing administrative workloads.

He retired in 2000, moving to Haughley, near Stowmarket, and made a significant contribution to the work of the Refugee Council and the support of asylum seekers.

The Rt Revd Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, said: “Bishop Hugo was a friend to many and a passionate and thoughtful spokesman for those on the margins of society. His experiences as a refugee shaped his concern for those who were homeless and stateless. Our thoughts and prayers go to Brigit and their family.”

Bishop Hugo is survived by his children Katy, Joanna, Penny and Bernard.

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