The Catholic Church in India has lost more than 300 priests this year, including three bishops so far – most of them to the pandemic.
The pandemic has also claimed the lives of more than 250 Catholic nuns from India.
Fr Prakash Vandakam IMS died on 7 August.
Fr Dominic Savio Jyrwa SDB died on 22 July.
Fr Joseph Shibu Keechenkeri died on July 11. He served in the Thalassery Diocese.
Fr John Fernandes, a senior priest from Mangalore, passed away on July 3. He was ordained in Germany, taught in Mangalore Seminary, and served as a parish priest in various parishes of Mangalore before he retired.
Bishop of Gumla Most Reverend Paul Alois Lakra passed away at 1.30 AM on 15th June. He was fighting post-Covid complications for a while in Constant Lievens Hospital, Mandar and then in Orchid Medical Centre, Ranchi. Funeral details will be announced by the Diocese of Gumla.
Bishop Lakra was born on July 11, 1955, in Naditoly, Jharkhand state. He was ordained a priest on May 6, 1988 and was appointed Bishop of Gumla on Jan. 28, 2006.
Fr Immanuel Xalxo died on June 11. He was from SDB congregation.
Fr YJ Prasad from the Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese died on June 10.
Fr Anish Mundiyanickal, 40, died at 1:30 am on June 9. Fr Anish was a Charismatic preacher and counsellor from Missionaries of St.Francis de Sales congregation, ministering at Charisbhavan Retreat Centre, Athirampuzha in Kerala.
Fr Singarayar died on June 6. He was 40 years old and belonged to OFM congregation.
Fr Ivo Fernandes, 90, died on June 6th. He was a Redemptorist Missionary from the Province of Bangalore.
Fr Roque Noronha, from the SFX congregation, died on June 5.
Fr James Theophilus, 68, passed away at 04.45 pm on 5th June at Salem, due to Covid.
Fr A. Sahayaraj, 61, who was serving as a parish priest in Mathakottai, Thanjavur, died on June 4. Fr was a dedicated Salesian who served for many years as a headmaster.
Fr Matthew Thekkekulam died on June 4. He was under treatment for leukemia for a while. He served in the Thalassery Archdiocese.
Fr George Vanderkunnel died on June 3. He too served in the Thalassery Archdiocese as the vicar of Cherupuzha St Mary’s Forane Church.
Fr Paul Pulikottil, 49, died at 3:05 pm on June 1. He was serving in Ramanathapuram under Kerala’s Trichur Archdiocese and was being treated for Covid.
Fr Matthew Kumbalathparampil passed away on May 29. He has served previously as the animator of the Kerygma Charismatic Renewal Ministry. He was under treatment for Covid in Delhi’s Holy Family Hospital.
Fr Sinson Edakalathur, 32 died on May 28. He was studying in Rome and was in Kerala for a break.
Fr S J Anthonysamy from the Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese passed away on May 28.
Fr Cheriyan Nereveettil, 49, who served previously as the Chief Editor of Sathyadeepam, a Catholic magazine, has died on May 27. He had suffered a head injury after being hit by a biker and was under treatment in Lakeshore Hospital. He later had a cardiac arrest. Fr Cheriyan has served as a Chaplain for Jesus Youth International. He was the vicar of St Gianna Church, Maradu. He was among the many priests in India who donated one of their kidneys. Fr Cheriyan’s death due to the accident has come as another shock, when the church in India is already reeling after losing many priests to Covid.
Fr Xavier Lourdusamy passed away on May 25. He was from the Dindigul Diocese.
Fr Binit Barla SVD died on May 23 of Covid. He was ordained in January this year and was preparing for his mission in Zimbabwe.
Fr Anto Kannampuzha, 52, a Vincentian priest from Kerala, died on May 23.
Fr Golamari Innareddy died on 22nd May. He was from the Hyderabad Archdiocese.
Fr Yeruva Joji Reddy died on 21st May. He belonged to Guntur Diocese.
Fr Benny Konooran died on May 21. He was 48 and belonged to the CST congregation. An avid sportsman, Fr Benny was a mentor of the CST Seminary basketball team in Aluva.
Fr. Nibin Sebastian, 37, died on the morning of May 20. He was a member of the Herald of Good News congregation, ministering in UP state. Fr Vincent V Menezes died on May 20th. Br. Matthew Choondianical OFM died on May 20. He hails from Kerala and was 59 years old.
Fr. Antony Cruz Arul died on 19th May.
Franciscan Br James Kallarackan passed away on May 17. He was 77 years old.
Fr Victor David, the parish priest of Our Lady of Happy Voyage, Howrah died on May 15. A farewell funeral service was held at St John’s Church Sealdah and at Happy Voyage, Howrah for parishioners.
Fr John Ekka, 51 died of a cardiac arrest in the ICU of Kolkata’s Fortis Hospital on May 14. He was the Rector of Don Bosco, Monsada.
Ten priests died in two days – six on May 12 and four on May 11.
Fr Rijo Francis Mechery MSFS, the Vice Principal of St Francis School at Vikaspuri in West Delhi, died on May 12. He was a member of the Missionaries of Saint Francis de Sales, also known as Fransalians.
Fr John Suresh, the Director of JIAS Academy of Chingleput diocese in Tamil Nadu died on May 12, after a long fight against Covid. He was fifty years old.
Franciscan priest Fr Cajetan Lourenco, died on May 12. He was the parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Mundalli in Karwar. He was from Ponda, Goa.
Fr Jyotish, who started a rehabilitation centre for HIV children in Warangal, died on May 12. He was a member of the Indian Missionary Society.
Fr Clement Frank from Bangalore passed away at 8.30 pm on 12th May. He was being treated for Covid at St Martha’s Hospital and suffered a heart attack.
Fr Ambrose D’Souza, 66, a Jesuit, died on May 12. He was parish priest of Jagir at Pannur, at the time of his death. The burial service was held at the Jesuit cemetery in Jeppu, Mangalore on May 12.
Fr Ebin Kuzhimullil CST, died of a heart attack on May 11 while being treated for Covid in a Hyderabad hospital. He studied MSW Social work at Little Flower Institute of Social Sciences and Health. He was a zealous missionary of the St. Joseph’s province of the Little Flower Congregation, working among the poor people in the diocese of Adilabadh, in Telungana. He is from the parish of Josegiri, in the diocese of Idukki, Kerala. Due to covid restrictions, his body could not be brought to Kerala; no one from his family could attend the funeral in Hyderabad.
Capuchin priest Fr John Britto died on May 11. Fr Joseph Bara, 69 of Patna archdiocese died on May 11. Fr VV Prasad too passed away on May 11, at 10 pm, in Visakhapatnam.
Fr Esaac B, the parish priest of St. Rock’s Church, Chelekere, Bangalore passed away on May 8. He was 49 years old.
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 Thrissur lost half a dozen retired priests to Covid-19 during the first weekend of May. All of them were infected at a convalescent home situated in the compound of the archdiocese’s medical college.
Fr George Akkara passed away on May 2. Fr Bernard Thattil and Fr Jose Thekkekara died on May 1.
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 passed away after a long battle with Covid on April 30.
The Syro Malabar Church also lost Fr Jacob Thaikkattil and Fr Jacob Thereath 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.
On April 25, Msgr. Prasan Pradhan, vicar general of Bhubaneswar Archdiocese, died of Covid-19.
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.
Many priests hospitalised
Several priests from the archdiocese of Ranchi were 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.
The Catholic Churches in Europe suffered serious losses as a result of the pandemic: 400 priests and elderly religious died during the darkest months of the Coronavirus outbreak in Europe. The estimated death toll is contained in a comprehensive Report compiled by the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE). The countries with the highest death toll of clergy members include the Netherlands with 181 dead (elderly religious), Italy with 121 and Spain with 70 victims. In Poland 10 priests died, in Belgium 5, in Ukraine 5, in Ireland 3, in Austria 4, one in Lithuania.
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.
Christ & Co.