Nagpur: The sprawling campus of SFS church in Mohan Nagar was brimming with mourners, present to attend the funeral service of Reverend Abraham Viruthakulangara, the archbishop of Nagpur, on Monday.
As many as 5,000 chairs had been placed in the area in front of the church building on the sides and near the Bishop’s home. But not one chair was vacant as members of the Christian community occupied them from noon onwards for the service, which began at 3.30pm. The archbishop passed away on April 19 in Delhi.
In what can be seen as a sign of late archbishop’s popularity, two cardinals, 60 bishops and a host of clergymen, priests, and people from different religions were present to pay their respects.
The coffin containing the body was brought out in a procession led by the two cardinals, Javier Fernandez – representative of Nunciature, Bishops, Vicar Generals, Major superiors of Religious Men, priests and relatives of archbishop. It was placed on a podium constructed right below the statue of Jesus Christ in front of the church.
A serene calm prevailed at the venue as the entire congregation sat with bowed heads and folded hands. The oppressive heat took a beating as nearly 100 coolers whirred along the sides throwing cold air and white canopies covering the entire area provided protection from the sun.
Hymns in English, Hindi and Malayalam, the native language of the late archbishop, were sung by members of the church choir. Emotions ran high as the late archbishop’s favourite hymn, ‘You are a priest forever’ was sung. “It is an anthem for the Nagpur Dioceses and was his favourite as it honours priesthood,” said Father Prashant.
Reading out an obituary of the archbishop, Father Albert D’souza described him as a man of excellent communication skills and one who had a spiritual presence. “He was a friend to all and never judged anybody,” he said. Addressing the vast gathering, the priest continued, “He would get very upset when people would not show up for someone’s funeral as he believed that this was the only way of expressing love and respect for the departed.”
Recalling his visit to Sagar for a church function on April 17, the priest said, “He was eager to take pictures with everyone and kept saying that this opportunity may not come again.”
Condolence messages paying glowing tributes to Rev Abraham from from the Pope, CBCI, Cardinals, representatives of Bishops, religious men and women of Nagpur Archdiocese, and governor of Tamil Nadu Banwarilal Purohit were read out.
Thanking the officials of SFS church for the immaculate execution of the entire funeral procedures, Father Alex, nephew of the late archbishop, said he and the family were deeply moved.
Vicar General Father Jerome Pinto thanked members of the church for the precision with which the entire procedure.
The rite of commendation was led by Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church as the diocesan priests carried the body inside the church for burial at 6.30pm.