Nagpur: The Archbishop of Nagpur diocese of the Catholic church, Abraham Viruthukulangara, 74 age, who passed away in Delhi on Thursday morning last week, was laid to rest in a stately funeral yesterday in the city.
His popularity among the Christian communities of the area – both Catholic and Protestant – was apparent from the thousands who attended the funeral. There was not an empty chair among the 5000 that were laid on the sides of the SFS Church in Mohan Nagar, right up to the house where Reverend Abraham had lived.
Two cardinals, 60 Bishops, and a host of clergy men attended the funeral from all over the world. That was the eminence in which this Archbishop was held – even by the Vatican.
City Member of Parliament Nitin Gadkari had paid his last respects to the Reverend of Sunday. At the funeral yesterday, condolence messages received from significant people were read out, among them one received from the Governor’s House in Tamil Nadu from Banwarilal Purohit.
Perhaps in light of this, it was astonishing that there was no condolence message, no visit to pay last respects from the C.M. – who is a Nagpurian – or anyone from his government.
“When the C.M. can take immediate note of an ex serviceman Academician passing away in Nagpur, and express his condolence, was he not made aware of the demise of an Archbishop of the area. The Reverend had died in his sleep at the headquarters of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in New Delhi where he had gone for a meeting of all the Hindi speaking Bishops at CBCI Centre.
The Archbishop’s sudden and unexpected death caused shock waves not only among his large congregation of Nagpur and Central India, but all over the world. Specifically the Roman Catholic world.
All mainstream Indian media had reported on the sad demise and written eulogies to the departed soul.
It is only our Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who didn’t take notice and issue a single word of condolence or sympathy.
What is ironical is that the Archbishop himself 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.
Isn’t India a secular nation where all religions are equal and important? Isn’t it shocking that an Archbishop, who is equivalent to the ‘Shankaracharya’ of a ‘Peeth’ should not merit such a courtesy from our state government?
The Life of Reverend Abraham
Born in Kerala on June 5, 1943, he joined the Seminary in Indore after high school studies in 1960. Viruthakulangara was ordained a priest in 1969 after his priestly studies at St Charles Seminary, Nagpur. After the ordination, he worked among Gond tribal for eight years. Observing his simplicity and missionary zeal ,the Pope chose him to head the new and predominantly tribal diocese of Khandwa.
When appointed in 1977 as bishop of the newly created Diocese of Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh state ,he was just 34 years old and the youngest prelate in India. He also became the 100th Indian Catholic Bishop since the establishment of the Indian hierarchy in 1886.
During his two-decades long device in Khandwa,he helped local Christians to bond with their Hindu and Muslim neighbours.
During one of her visits to Khandwa,St Mother Teresa commended the young and dynamic prelate for his proficiency in language that helped him reach out to thousands and transform their lives.
After serving Khandwa for 21 years,he was promoted as the metropolitan Archbishop of Nagpur in 1998.
Nagpur Archdiocese has seen dramatic changes in its service to local people during his tenure. In the past 40 years as a bishop and Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara has served as the first chairman of the youth commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in 1986. He was the chairman of the Western Region Bishops’ council (Comprising bishops of Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat states) from 1998 to 2004.
Such was the distinguished life he led in the service of God. And humanity.
But our ‘local state leaders’ have chosen to ‘not notice’ his sad demise at all.
Their absence perhaps made no difference to his grieving congregation, but their -the leaders’ – charisma is somewhat diminished by this absence.