Paul Alois Lakra, 65, was the second bishop of Gumla, a diocese created in Jharkhand in 1993. For Archbishop Barwa, his death “is a big loss for tribal people” to whom he was committed.
Ranchi (AsiaNews) – The Catholic Church of India is mourning the death of a fourth bishop caused by COVID-19.
In the early hours of this morning, Bishop Paul Alois Lakra of Gumla died at the Orchid Hospital in Ranchi. His diocese is located in the State of Jharkhand. He was 65 years old and had been hospitalised after he was infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
His death follows those of Syro-Malabar Bishop Emeritus Joseph Neelankavil of Sagar, Archbishop Emeritus Antony Anandarayar of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, and Bishop Basil Bhuriya of Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh).
In addition to the aforementioned prelates, the Catholic Church in India has lost 283 priests and 252 nuns to COVID-19, numbers collected by Fr Suresh Mathew of Indian Currents and Shaiju Chacko of the Diocese of Jammu-Srinagar.
Bishop Lakra was born on 11 July 1955. Ordained priest for the Archdiocese of Ranchi in 1988, he joined the clergy of Gumla five years later when the latter became a diocese, separate from the territory of Ranchi. In January 2006 he was appointed as the second bishop of Gumla.
Bishop Lakra’s funeral will be held tomorrow at 10 am at Gumla Cathedral where his body is lying in state. Archbishop Felix Toppo of Ranchi will lead the requiem Mass.
“Lakra's death is a big loss to the Gumla diocese, and to all the tribal people in the Chota Nagpur area,” said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, speaking to AsiaNews about Bishop Lakra’s death.
“Lakra was one among his people. He loved his people and was loved by them. His death is a big loss for tribal people who are the last, the lost and the least,” noted the archbishop.
“Bishop Lakra's worked tirelessly for tribal people in all spheres, for their uplift and development, economically, educationally, socially, and spiritually.”
In recent years, tribal people “have gifted many religious to the Church in India through schools and centres in remote areas.
“Credit union, savings programmes, seed banks, and agricultural training have helped tribal people become self-reliant.” Paul Lakra “was a committed and dedicated bishop whom COVID-19 took away from us.”
[*] Chota Nagpur is a plateau in eastern India that is divided between Jharkhand, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh.