Pedro Brito Ribeiro was one of the major Portuguese pioneers in Seventh-day Adventism.
Pedro Brito Ribeiro was born June 4, 1909, at Portalegre, Portugal, into a Presbyterian family. José Alexandre Ribeiro, his father, was a colporteur of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Portugal. Young Pedro had his first contact with the Adventist message when he was 12 years old. Pastor Paul Meyer, president of the Portuguese Mission, had been invited to give a series of lectures on biblical prophecies at the Presbyterian Church in Portalegre. Since José Alexandre Ribeiro was a deacon of the local church, all the members of the Ribeiro family were present during the lectures. Pedro was very much impressed with the preaching of Paul Meyer, especially with the interpretation of Daniel 2.
Following the lectures, the Seventh-day Adventist Bible worker Rosália Pires started a Bible study group at the home of the Ribeiro family. The young Pedro then accepted the Adventist faith and joined the core group that eventually would become the Portalegre Seventh-day Adventist Church. In 1926, at the age of 17, he was invited by Pastor Júlio César Mignãn to work as a colporteur in northern Portugal. After a short canvassing course, Ribeiro started to sell Arautos do Porvir (Heralds of the Future), a book about biblical prophecies. A year later, he was invited by Pastor Harry Lowe, the new president of the Portuguese Mission, to serve in the pastoral ministry.
In 1927 he began his theological studies at the Séminaire Adventiste du Salève, Collonges, France. It was at Collonges that Ribeiro was baptized on July 3, 1928, by Pastor Alfred Vaucher.1
Ministry, Marriage, and Administrative Years
Returning to Portugal, he started his ministry as a colporteur in Oporto in 1931. In March 1932, he began working at the Portuguese Mission headquarters in Lisbon. During that time, Ribeiro not only served as an assistant to Alberto Raposo, the mission secretary-treasurer, he also engaged in home missionary work. His first missionary assignment was to accompany Pastor H. F. Neumann, the mission president, in the distribution of tracts with the Adventist message in Lisbon. He also gave Bible studies to interested persons.
In May 1934 he was elected secretary-treasurer of the Portuguese Mission, and in July of that year he married Irene Polónio da Nave. When the Portuguese field received conference status in 1935, Ribeiro was elected as its secretary-treasurer, a position he held until 1943. Beginning in 1941 he also served as director of the Portuguese Publishing House (Publicadora Atlântico). In this capacity he promoted the development of the Adventist publishing work in Portugal. He was the first administrator of the Saúde e Lar (Health and Home) health review, which started in 1942 and is still published today.
Being tired of administrative paperwork, Ribeiro asked for a front-line job. Thus, he was elected director of the Madeira Mission. He and his wife worked in Madeira from 1943 until 1949. In 1946 Ribeiro was ordained to the pastoral ministry. In 1949 he returned to Lisbon and was elected secretary-treasurer of the Portuguese Union, an office that he held until 1963. From January to December 1958, Ribeiro was acting president of the Portuguese Union. During the long period that he served as administrator he was also actively engaged in evangelistic work. He started new churches in Alvalade, Odivelas, and Cova da Piedade. From 1963 to 1970, he went to Africa to serve as President of the Mozambique Union. During the seven years of his tenure, there was tremendous growth of the Adventist church in Mozambique2 such that the membership there tripled in seven years.3 He was also commissioned by the Transvaal Audio-Visual Bible Study Association (TABSA) to go to South Africa where he and his wife translated the first audio-visual Portuguese language series for the Portuguese-speaking community.4
Retirement and Later Years
In 1970 he retired and returned to Portugal, but he continued to work. He served as a pastor of the Odivelas Church for seven years and of the Lisbon-General Roçadas Church for four years. In 1983 he was invited to pastor the Portuguese Church in Johannesburg, South-Africa. In 1985 he returned to Portugal and served for two more years as pastor of two small churches, Torres Vedras and Pêro Negro. Finally, in 1987, he definitely retired, but he never ceased to write magazine articles for the Revista Adventista, the flagship journal of the Portuguese Union of Churches. His faithful wife, Irene, passed away on September 17, 2001. Pedro Brito Ribeiro died February 13, 2012. He was 102 years old.5
Pastor Pedro Brito Ribeiro distinguished himself as one of the major Portuguese pioneers in Seventh-day Adventism together with Alberto Fernando Raposo and Ernesto Ferreira. His work as an administrator was significant in providing stability for the growing church organization in Portugal, while his missionary work in Madeira and Mozambique was crucial to those developing fields.
The overall ministry of Pedro Brito Ribeiro was marked by a strong evangelistic fervor. He did pioneer work in the opening of several new churches in the Lisbon metropolitan area, setting an example for other workers. His life manifested an intense missionary drive; the growth in membership during his years in Mozambique was remarkable. Pedro Brito Ribeiro made an important contribution that shaped the destiny of the Portuguese Union and of the fledgling Mozambique Union.
Cazeaux, Jean, “Highlights of the Division Quadrennial Council, 1968.” Southern European Quarterly Review, March 1969.
Ferreira, Ernesto. Arautos de Boas Novas: Centenário da Igreja Adventista do Sétimo Dia em Portugal 1904-2004. Sabugo: Publicadora SerVir, 2008.
Landless, N. G. “Reaching the Portuguese in South Africa.” ARH, October 20, 1966.
Macedo, Paulo Sérgio. “100 anos com Deus.” Revista Adventista, June 2009.
Machado, Artur. “Falecimento do Pr. Pedro Brito Ribeiro.” Revista Adventista, March 2012.
Ribeiro, Pedro Brito. “Pedro Ribeiro.” Revista Adventista, October 2004.
_____. “Echoes from Mozambique.” Southern European Quarterly Review, March 1964.
_____. “Mozambique Membership Triples in Seven Years.” ARH, May 14, 1970.
Vandenvelde, Georges “Division Annual Committee Meeting 1969.” Southern European Quarterly Review, March 1970.
Ferreira Ernesto, Arautos de Boas Novas: Centenário da Igreja Adventista do Sétimo Dia em Portugal 1904-2004 (Sabugo: Publicadora SerVir, 2008), 231; Pedro Brito Ribeiro, “Pedro Ribeiro,” Revista Adventista 65. 689 (October 2004), 20. Paulo Sérgio Macedo, “100 anos com Deus,” Revista Adventista 60.745 (June 2009), 27; Artur Machado, “Falecimento do Pr. Pedro Brito Ribeiro,” Revista Adventista 73.778 (March 2012), 19.↩
For example, Ribeiro once reported that “Our 39 churches have 10,000 baptized members. 20,000 attend the Sabbath school in more than too regular, and 98 branch Sabbath schools. 1,125 persons were baptized in 1968.” See a compilation of the reports by Georges Vandenvelde, “Division Annual Committee Meeting 1969,” Southern European Quarterly Review, March 1970, 3; c.f. Jean Cazeaux, “Highlights of the Division Quadrennial Council, 1968,” Southern European Quarterly Review, March 1969, 3; P. B, Ribeiro, “Echoes from Mozambique,” Southern European Quarterly Review, March 1964, 6-7.↩
P. B. Ribeiro, “Mozambique Membership Triples in Seven Years,” ARH, May 14, 1970,19-20.↩
N. G. Landless, “Reaching the Portuguese in South Africa,” ARH, October 20, 1966, 21-22.↩
Ferreira, Arautos de Boas Novas, 231; Ribeiro, “Pedro Ribeiro,” 20-21; Macedo, “100 anos com Deus,” 27; Machado, “Falecimento do Pr. Pedro Brito Ribeiro,” 19.↩