CAPTION: Travelling around the diocese was a challenge for Bishop Oliver

Bishop Oliver leaves Madagascar for Devon

Posted: 12th April, 2016

A job on the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean could be seen as a dream post. Bishop Oliver Simon has recently returned to East Devon from a three-year period as Bishop of the northern Madagascar in the Diocese of Antsiranana. But the job was not without its difficulties.

Madagascar, off the east coast of Africa, is the world’s fourth largest island. The World Bank has estimated that 92% of Malagasy live on less than $2 per day. It is the world’s leading producer of vanilla, but many areas suffer food shortages.

Bishop Oliver took up the post in February 2012, having retired from the Church of England. “One of the greatest difficulties was getting about,” he says. “Many roads are only passible using a four by four vehicle. Journeys over comparatively short distances can take hours or even days. A colleague of mine took three days and nights to complete a trip of 160 kilometres (100 miles).”

During a distinguished career in the Church of England, Bishop Oliver was for five years Chaplain to the Community of St Mary the Virgin in Wantage. The Community was able to give him a grant to buy and maintain a suitable rough terrain vehicle and recently have given the diocese another grant for a replacement.

“The four by four pick up could carry six people or more,” says Bishop Oliver. “It allowed me to get to many parishes and areas that would either have been inaccessible in an ordinary car or taken days to reach on foot.”