“The funeral was a testimony of the greatness of this humble servant of the Lord,” Mgr Marampudi Joji, archbishop of Hyderabad, told AsiaNews. “Three MPs, three State ministers and three MLAs and many local Hindus were present at the funeral. About 200 priests, and men and women religious also attended.”
“Just a few months ago, in May, I spent about ten days with him in Ooty, talking about PIME’s work in Andhra Pradesh,” the archbishop said. “Since PIME Fathers arrived in India in 1855 they have been involved in hard work. Their love and compassion for people has given the population an opportunity to live with dignity and become aware of their value. This is their greatest gift. They have supported the emancipation of Dalits and people living with leprosy, bringing about changes in the life of these two social groups, which are the most marginalised of the population.”
Father Colombo was fluent in Telugu, the local language, and could speak to villagers in their dialect. For this reason too, he was seen as a member of the community, an Indian among Indians.
“Today the poorest and marginalised people in the districts of Khammam and Warangal, who were literally social outcastes just eking out a living at the mercy of the powerful majority communities, are living with dignity and self sufficiency,” the archbishop of Hyderabad said, as he remembered Father Colombo’s work as a missionary and “his tireless action for the social emancipation of the population” (see Piero Gheddo, “Fr. Augusto Colombo, who brought the Dalits to university, dies,” AsiaNews, 31 August 2009).
Father Colombo was a “saintly priest,” Mgr Joji said. “His life was a testimony to the Gospel. His life and work enabled many to serve God and [help] needy people. He truly loved others and was father to so many rural poor. Today I can say that I lost a dear friend.” (NC)