Even as over 230,000 deaths have been attributed to Covid-19 in India, more priests have died over the past one month.
The Catholic Church in India has lost more than forty priests and two bishops so far – most of them to Covid-19, in the last one month. Fourteen priests have died between April 20 and 23 alone.
Fr Jerome Gonsalves, 72, a Jesuit priest from from Karnataka died of Covid on May 7, in Pune. He was serving as a parish priest in Rahuri. His assistant, Fr Ramesh Tribhuvan also died of Covid on Thursday.
Fr Prakash Tirkey, Northern Indian provincial of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentians), has died of Covid-19 on May 7. Fr Tirkey, 65, was admitted in St. Anne’s Hospital at Malkapuram on April 26 for Covid treatment. When his oxygen levels dropped, he was brought to the ICU of a hospital in Visakhapatnam. The death occurred at 1:45 pm at St Joseph’s Hospital in Visakhapatnam. Fr Tirkey was born in the Rourkela diocese in Odisha’s Sundargarh district, as the first of the nine children of Benjamin and Regina. He held a master’s degree in English literature and Bachelor of Education from Kolkata. Bishop Nayak, mourning Fr Tirkey’s death, said he thanked God for Fr Tirkey’s “great contribution to the Church in Odisha”.
Bishop Basil Bhuriya SVD, 65, Bishop of Jhabua, died at 1.10 pm in St. Francis Hospital, Indore on May 6. Pope Francis on July 18, 2015, appointed him as the Bishop of Jhabua. Bishop Bhuriya was born on March 8, 1956, in Panchkui parish in Jhabua and ordained in 1986. He served in the parishes of Muvalia in Baroda diocese, Dhar in Indore and Rajgarh in Jhabua. He was also parish priest of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church of Thandla Jhabua when he became a bishop.
Fr Peter S Noronha, the former director of Father Muller Hospital, passed away at the same hospital, on May 5. He was 85. Fr Peter is from Bondel and has served also as a parish priest in Udupi, Bantwal, Katipalla and Bendore.
Archbishop Emeritus Antony Anandarayar of Pondicherry-Cuddalore died of Covid-19 on May 4.
The 75-year-old bishop passed away at 9:30 pm at St. Thomas Hospital, Chennai, where he was admitted for Covid treatment.
Archbishop Anandarayar was from Kumbakonam diocese and earlier the Bishop of Ootacamund. He has served as the Rector of St. Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, Bangalore. He was the Chairman for the CCBI Commission for Canon Law and other Legislative Texts from 2006 to 2015.
The CMI Congregation is mourning the death of Fr Issac Alappat, 86, – a film director, editor, script writer, cameraman and an author. Fr Alappat died on May 3 at Amala Hospital, Thrissur, Kerala. He was suffering from age-related health issues for the past few years. Fr studied Film and Television Technology at Hollywood, returned to Kerala and started Chetana Film and Television Society. He later established Chetana Sound studios at Chiyyaram, one of the best in South India. St. John Paul II blessed the foundation stone of Chetana in 1986. Chetana has now branched out into seven institutions of international standards.
The Archdiocese of Bangalore lost Fr C. Moses at 11:30 am on May 1, at St Philomena’s Hospital. He passed away on the Feast of St Joseph the Worker, the patron saint of his own parish – St.Joseph’s Church, Channapatna.
Redemptorist priest Fr. Sanjay Ekka, 44, who was under treatment for Covid, passed away on May 1.
Fr Manuel Dcunha from Varanasi, succumbed to Covid ,on 30th April.
Fr Issac from the diocese of Nagpur has passed away after a long battle with Covid on April 30.
Fr Joy Karayampuram, the former Jesuit provincial of Patna, died of Covid on April 29. He was 65. Father Joy was the rector of St Xavier’s College. He was earlier the superior of the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi. He also headed the institute’s legal aid cell.
Bro. Michael D Souza, a seminarian from the diocese of Allahabad, who was working in St. Joseph’s School Rihandnagar, passed away at 6 am on 29 April.
Fr. Anand Xalxo passed away on 28th April. He belonged to Raigarh diocese, Chhattisgarh.
Fr. Lawrentus Lakra of Rourkela Diocese too passed away on April 28, due to cardiac arrest. He was under treatment for Covid.
CMI congregation’s Fr Joseph Kattikaren passed away on April 27. He served the diocese of Rajkot.
The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar reported the deaths of two priests within hours of each other. Fr Prasanna Pradhan, the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, died on April 25. Fr Bimal Nayak, who was only 35 years old, died in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh – he had travelled to the state as part of his ministry. His parents had not been able to see him since last March, due to the lockdown. The Indian Missionary Society said in a press note that the deceased young priest was a singer, composer and a vibrant missionary who organised training programs for youth, women and children, spiritual conventions, human rights programs etc. for people of all faiths.
Fr Oscar Anthony Barreto, a priest of Baroda Diocese, passed away early morning on 25th April. He was 82 years old and had been a Catholic priest for 57 years. He was tested Covid positive and was under medication.
In Kolkata, Monsignor Francis Gomes, died at the Vianney Home on Middleton Row. He was 82. The senior priest was honoured with the title of Monsignor by Pope John Paul II for his exemplary contribution to the field of education in the archdiocese of Kolkata.
Fr Ajit Dung Dung, a Franciscan priest in his early forties from Andamans and who was ministering in Jharkand, died on April 25.
Fr Joachim Minj from Rourkhela diocese has also passed away due to Covid-19. He was an active member of CPCI.
More priests hospitalised
Several priests from the archdiocese of Ranchi are hospitalised.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, an auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese located in Jharkhand, told EWTN’s Colm Flynn in a tearful interview that the situation was ‘very very difficult’. Bishop Theodore took the priests to the hospital in his jeep, as there were no ambulances available.
“I have seven priests in hospital right now and those are the lucky ones who found a hospital bed. I have another seven seminarians who are sick, lying in their beds in a house close to the hospital. I took them to a house for the aged because there was no place in the hospital,” the bishop said
“I lost a priest, 30 years old, just one year of ordination…five days ago. And it hurts”. Bishop Theodore was with the young priest and “fed him coconut water until the last.”
Young and old affected
Father Lijo Thomas, 38, another young priest, passed away on April 23 afternoon at Christ Hospital in Maharashtra. The Catholic Press Association of India has mourned the death of Fr Lijo, who was the former PRO of the Nagpur archdiocese. He had served as the secretary of the Archbishop of Nagpur.
Seven priests died of Covid between April 16 and 20 in Gujarat alone.
Fr Paulraj Napoleon and Fr Pascal Jacob Ninama of Baroda Diocese died on April 17 and April 20, respectively. Three Jesuit priests have died in Gujarat – Fr Jerry Sequeira, Fr Jesuraj Arputham and Fr Erwin Lazarado.
Fr John Francis Texiera, aged 72 years, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Mysuru, passed away on April 18.
Father Jesuraj, 60, was visiting his home in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu – for Easter, after five years. He developed mild diarrhoea and his family members rushed him to the hospital, where he died of Covid complications. He was a parish priest in Dhandhuka, a remote tribal village in Ahmedabad district. He had joined the Society of Jesus 39 years ago.
CMI priest Fr John Fisher Painadath suffered a heart attack as he was undergoing treatment for Covid infection on April 16.
Divine Word priest Fr Francis Rayyappan died April 17 morning in Dahod’s St Francis Hospital. The 56-year-old missionary had served the diocese for the past 35 years.
Fr Martin Anthony, the parish priest Kristha Krupalaya Church, Hosakerehalli died on April 22 in Bengaluru.
Fr Philip Louis is among Indian priests serving abroad, who passed away due to Covid this year. He was the pastor of St. Matthew’s Catholic Church in Elk City and its mission Queen of All Saints Catholic Church in Sayre, Oklahoma; he died of Covid in January. Fr Lois had served briefly with Mother Teresa of Kolkata. He was 53 and was vacationing in Nellore when he became sick.
Fr Praveen Hrudayaraj passed away on 22nd April, after battling cancer. He is a member of the Karnataka Jesuit province. He has been serving as the Director of St Joseph’s College of Law since June 2020.
Father S Christudas, 58, recovered from Covid-19 a few days ago, but died after a fall. He was a tribal activist in the Dumka diocese of Jharkhand, who worked ceaselessly for their advancement.
Fr Sanjay Francis, assistant parish priest of Vailankanni Matha Church, Ghaziabad district and Fr Basant Lakra, from Lucknow diocese – died in Uttar Pradesh.
Fr Srinivasan, a member of the Madurai Jesuit province, Fr Diago Dsouza of Bombay Jesuit province, Fr Arulsamy of the archdiocese of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, Fr George Karamayil of the Patna Jesuit province, Fr Thomas Akkara of the Divine World Society, Fr Joseph Cherusseril of Raipur archdiocese and Fr Theodore Toppo of the Carmelites of Immaculate congregation in Jagdalpur diocese are the other priests who lost their battle to Covid-19.
Fr Antony Kunnath, the 78-year-old parish priest of Mahasamund, from the archdiocese of Raipur in Chhattisgarh, died on April 20.
Fr Thomas Panakezham SDB (91) (former Provincial of Chennai Salesian Province 1971-76 and former Regional of Australasia 1977-1995) passed away at 2.25 pm on April 24, at the hospice of the Little Sisters of the Poor on Hosur Road, Bangalore. His funeral was held on 26th April.
The Catholic Church is the largest church in India, with over 19.9 million Catholics, who represent around 1.55% of the total population. India has just over 30,000 priests in total, both diocesan and religious.
We pray for the families and friends of these beloved priests. We request you to pray for India and other countries across the world to heal from this Covid wave.