Raible, Otto Ep.(1887-1966)

Prepared by: 
Regina Ganter
Birth / Death: 
born 27 November 1887 Stuttgart
died 18th June 1966 Limburg age 79


First Pallottine bishop in Australia, strategically expanded the Pallottine presence throughout the Kimberley, recruited professionals to combat leprosy, engage with indigenous languages and train aspirants in Melbourne.


Otto Raible was the son of janitor Ferdinand and Maria Anna née Schneckenberger. He entered the Pallottine mission school in 1904, and commenced his novitiate in Limburg in 1905, where he studied philosophy, theology, and church law and made his first profession 1907. 

He was ordained in July 1911 and was posted to Cameroon in October 1912 to conduct the mission school in Jaunde. He had to return due to ill health in June 1914 and became an army chaplain in World War I. After a period teaching philosophy in Limburg, during which he had some issues with his superiors in 1919, and was considered ‘not entirely tactful’,1 he became youth chaplain in the missionary seminary in Freising (Bavaria) until 1922 and from 1923 to 1927 he became the founder of the Pallottine presence in Czechoslovakia as minister for German emigrants in Trautenau (who were all expelled after World War II).


In May 1928 he became the Prefect Apostolic of the Kimberley Vicariate. The vicariate existed since May 1887, but only now the Pallottines were granted its administration. His advocates cited in favour of his appointment that he spoke some English, and he had a love of music and knew how to engage young people.


He arrived in the Kimberley in his early 40s, a tall man with full black beard.2 After Fr. Droste returned to Germany, Raible was in charge of three priests (Scherzinger, Püsken, Spangenberg) seven Brothers (Kasparek, Graf, Wollseifer, Helmprecht, Krallmann, Contemprée, Herholz) and 22 Sisters of Mercy of whom eight were at Beagle Bay. Raible’s niece Brunhilde became a nurse at the Beagle Bay hospital.4


The West Australian 4 February 1931  5

The West Australian 12 Mar 1931   6  


Raible sought to extend the Pallottine presence into the east Kimberley and the interior of the vicariate. He undertook tours on horseback through his vicariate assisted by two trackers and found an alarmingly high incidence of leprosy.7


The West Australian 8 Nov 1933 - 'Half-Castes and Church. Roman Catholic Viewpoint' 8


Against the resistance of Chief Protector A.O. Neville, for whom the German Catholics were the ‘least favoured missionary body’,9Raible attempted to establish new mission centres and recruited German professionals to reclaim a new role for missions. In 1930 he brought Fr. Ernst Worms as ethnographer to engage with indigenous languages, and Fr. Hügel with training in mission medicine. In 1935 he brought three more experts in linguistics and mission medicine. He also sought to establish commercially viable farms. Raible recorded in his chronicle:


When the Pallottine Fathers took on the administration of the Kimberley Vicariate in 1928 it contained three mission stations, Broome, Beagle Bay and Lombadina, all on the west coast of Dampierland. Nothing was done for the white people, and there was no mission in the eastern part of the vicariate for indigenous people. The Apostolic administrator undertook journeys through the whole vicariate in 1931, 1932 and 1933 to offer pastoral care and to locate a suitable site for the establishment of a new mission centre.10


An enthusiastic start was made at Rockhole with Fr. Francis Hügel in charge and Br. Heinrich Krallmann, Br. Joseph Schüngel< and three men from Beagle Bay, Paddy Paddy, George Dan and Philip Cox.


Riding on the wave of this success, Raible was appointed as apostolic administrator of the Kimberley Vicariate in 1935 during a visit to Germany. Again he was chosen from among three candidates, Fr. Eugen Weber who had never been in the mission field but spoke English and was a published author, biographer of Vincent Pallotti, and the other was Fr. Ernst Worms whom Raible had recruited to the Kimberley in 1930 as ethnographer. None of them had an academic degree. Raible was appointed in June 1935 and anointed as bishop in Limburg in August.11


Bishop Raible had a keen sense of the injustice suffered by Aboriginal people and despised the triumphalist attitude of the settlers and government. It did not escape his notice that during the West Australian centennial celebrations in 1929 much history was getting re-worked and not a mention was made of missions:


‘The whole State is founded and built upon the bones of the blacks, who are the real owners of that country, but have been shot down and poisoned like dogs only on account of not being willing to give up their own hunting grounds. But this is simply robbery and puts power before right, a principle, which to my understanding is diametrically opposed to the true spirit of Christianity …. I can’t see any bright outlook for the Catholic Church in Western Australia, unless Catholics and their bishops and pastors acknowledge their sacred duty to do reparation to a downtrodden race, on whose land they are living.’12


Giving evidence to the Moseley Royal Commission in 1934, which was much concerned with the ‘problem’ of the growing number of mixed descendants, Raible took issue with unquestioned attitudes and assumptions. He argued that the process by which persons were exempted from the Act, which involved inquiries into whether they were ‘trustworthy’, implied that all those remaining under the Act were not trustworthy.


It must be borne in mind that the Aborigines’ question originated when the white man came into the country, took the land from the black man and declared this action to be legal. … It is a question of fundamental human rights. Whether or not the white man was entitled to take the land and develop it … may be open to discussion, but we are certainly not entitled to take it without recompense. …. Whenever we come across the word ‘half-caste’ we should strike our breast and say ‘through our most grievous fault’. Legislation should be reframed in a way that avoids regulations of a humiliating tenor …13


Bishop Raible and Chief Protector Neville were like two bulls locking horns. Raible wanted to extend the reach and services of the Pallottines; Neville thought missionaries ought to be licenced (by him) and married, and wanted to control Aboriginal affairs in the State. Neville failed to see any benefit in spiritual teachings and kept the missions on a shoestring. These two were building separate and competing empires on the same land, and had opposing goals for the Moseley Royal Commission. Neville hoped for (and achieved) an extension of the definition of ‘half-caste’ in order to be able to manage a greater part of the Aboriginal population, Raible hoped that Neville would loose his position as a result of the inquiry.14 As Zucker notes, ‘Fr. Raible’s customary method of dealing with the government in money matters was to decide, and often act, and only then inform the relevant department of the consequent requirements of the mission.’15


Raible informed the Western Australian Aboriginal Department in January 1935, before leaving for Germany, of his intention to appoint a travelling medical inspector based at Rockhole and to request an annual subsidy of £1,000.16 Chief Protector Neville went into war against the Pallottine expansion. He purchased time by arguing that any decision would have to await the report of the Moseley commission and then established a miniature clinic at Moola Bulla, very close to Rockhole.


When Raible returned from Germany after his ordination as Bishop in 1935 he brought with him the linguist Prof. Nekes and two medical experts with experience in tropical diseases, Dr Hans Betz and Ludwina Betz-Korte from the Würzburg Catholic training centre for missionary doctors. Neville placed every possible obstacle in their way (see Beagle Bay mission).


The West Australian, 24 September 1935 - 'Kimberley Vicariate. German Scientists' Visit.'17


Neville objected against the relocation of Aboriginal persons without his permission and involved Fr. Herold in an endless red tape about the Beagle Bay residents who had been brought to Rockhole. By 1939 the Pallottines finally resolved to withdraw from the ill-fated Rockhole venture and move further south into the desert (Balgo). Bishop Raible’s lasting legacy from the Rockhole failure became the motto that ‘nothing is wasted in the household of God’.


In 1937 Bishop Raible founded a missionary college in the Melbourne suburb of Kew to be able to recruit and train Pallottines in Australia. This extended the Pallottine presence into Victoria and broadened their fundraising base. By the 1960s about half of the Pallottines in Australia were Australian.18

Read more

The Argus (Melbourne) 7 Aug 1937 - 'W.A. Mission to Aborigines.'19

The Advertiser (Adelaide) 23 Nov 1937 - 'Bishop Raible Returns From Tennant Creek.'20

The West Australian (Perth) 22 Jan 1938 - 'Training of Missionaries. New College for Kimberley Fathers.'21

The West Australian 20 Jul 1938 -  'Kimberley Missions.Victorians to Give Assistance.'22


During Raible’s period the Pallottines also acquired Tardun and Balgo, and extended their ministry to La Grange mission, and the townships of Derby, Wyndham, Hall's Creek, Fitzroy Crossing, Turkey Creek, and Argyle.


Fr. Raible

Bishop Raible,
Vicar Apostolic of the Kimberley, 1951

Source: Pallottis Werk 1951/1

Bishop Raible on the cover of
Pallottis Werk 1955/1
Bishop Raible on the cover of
Pallottis Werk vol. 10 September 1959



In 1953 Raible suffered a minor stroke and at age 72 he asked to be released from his missionary appointment for health reasons. He anointed as Bishop his successor Fr. John Jobst who had arrived in 1951. Raible left in April 1959 in company with Fr. Ludwig Münz for Naples and Rome, then onto Switzerland and home to Stuttgart.23


Bishop Raible hands an album of mission work to the Pope

Bishop Raible hands an album of the
mission work in the Kimberley to the Pope.

Pallottis Werk, 1953/3:79


Pope John XXIII appointed him Assistant to the Papal Throne (and he was issued with a Vatican passport), and the president of the Federal Republic of Germany Heinrich Lübke awarded him Great Service Cross of the Realm (Bundesverdienstkreuz) with Star.He spent his last years in the home of Christ the King in Stuttgart, and finally in the motherhouse in Limburg. 24


Passport for Otto Raible

Bishop Raible’s Passport of the Holy See, issued in Italian, French, Spanish, English and German: ‘Hamlet John Cicognani, Cardinal Bishop of the Holy Roman church of the title of the Suburban See of Frascati, Secretary of State to His Holiness Pope John XXIII, requests all Civil and Military Authorities to permit the bearer, who is one of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, freely to pass, and, in case of need, to provide him with every opportune assistance and protection. From the Vatican, 1962.’

Source: Raible, Otto, ep (1887-1966) P.1-26 ZAPP.


Memorial for Bishop Raible

Memorial to Bischop Raible in the grounds of the
Limburg Pallottine monastery.






1 Provincial Laqua, 5 December 1927, file note in Raible,  ZAPP.

2 Ruth Ihle ‘Unter den Ureinwohnern Australiens’ Biografie von Ernst Worms in Pioniere und Aussenseiter – 21 Biografien, Darmstadt, Turis Verlag 1968:405-427.

3 Nothing is wasted in the household of God – Vincent Pallotti’s Vision in Australia 1901-2001, Richmond: Spectrum 2001.

4 Mercia Angus in Sr Brigida Nailon and Fr. Francis Huegel, This is your Place – Beagle Bay Mission, Pallottine Centre, Broome, 1990:141.

5 "Personal." The West Australian (Perth) 4 Feb 1931: 8. Web. 12 May 2011.

6 "Personal." The West Australian (Perth) 12 Mar 1931: 8. Web. 12 May 2011.

7 Francis Byrne OSB A Hard Road – Brother Frank Nissl 1888-1980, A life of service to the Aborigines of the Kimberleys, Perth, Tara House, 1989:48.

8 "Half-Castes And Church." The West Australian (Perth) 8 Nov 1933: 7. Web. 12 May 2011.

9 Mary Durack The Rock and the Sand London, Constable 1969:243.

10 Cited in Alfons Bleischwitz ‘Geschichte der australischen Mission’ in Bleischwitz, Alfons [P] P1 Nr 13 and B7d, r (18) d ZAPP.

11 Raible, Otto, ep (1887-1966) P.1-26 ZAPP.

12 Bishop Raible to Abbot Catlan, New Norcia, 1929, in Sr Brigida Nailon CSB Nothing is wasted in the household of God – Vincent Pallotti’s Vision in Australia 1901-2001, Richmond: Spectrum 2001:82.

13 Margaret Zucker From Patrons to Partners, A history of the Catholic church in the Kimberley, Broome, University of Notre Dame Press, 1994:94. Sr Brigida Nailon CSB Nothing is wasted in the household of God – Vincent Pallotti’s Vision in Australia 1901-2001, Richmond: Spectrum 2001:128.

14 Margaret Zucker From Patrons to Partners, A history of the Catholic church in the Kimberley, Broome, University of Notre Dame Press, 199495.

15 Margaret Zucker From Patrons to Partners, A history of the Catholic church in the Kimberley, Broome, University of Notre Dame Press, 1994:104.

16 Margaret Zucker From Patrons to Partners, A history of the Catholic church in the Kimberley, Broome, University of Notre Dame Press, 1994:104.

17 Kimberley Vicariate. The West Australian, 24 September 1935:15. Retrieved September 30, 2013, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article32916129

18 Raible, Otto, ep (1887-1966) P.1-26 ZAPP.

19 "W.A. Mission To Aborigines." The Argus (Melbourne) 7 Aug 1937: 33 Supplement: Week-End Magazine. Web. 12 May 2011.

20 "Bishop Raible Returns From Tennant Creek” The Advertiser (Adelaide) 23 Nov 1937: 22. Web. 11 May 2011.

21 "Training Of Missionaries." The West Australian 22 Jan 1938: 28. Web. 11 May 2011.

22 "Kimberley Missions." The West Australian 20 Jul 1938: 17. Web. 11 May 2011.

23 Raible in Melbourne to Provinzial, 30 March 1959, in Raible, Otto, ep (1887-1966) P.1-26 ZAPP.

24 Pallottine Necrology, MS of the Pallottine Centre, Rossmoyne.