Held yesterday, the funeral in the cathedral of Warangal, Telangana, saw many non-Catholics come to say their last goodbye to the Italian missionary who chose to serve by giving himself, totally.
Fatimanagar (AsiaNews) – More than thousand people, both Christians and members of other religions, took part in yesterday’s funeral of Fr Antonio Grugni, a PIME missionary in India for 40 years who died two days ago, Fr Rayarala Vijay Kuman, PIME regional superior, told AsiaNews.
Fr Kuman concelebrated the Mass in the cathedral of Warangal (in Telangana) with the local bishop, Mgr Udumala Bala Showreddy.
“So many poor people, his poor” came to pay their final respect to "the one who created the Christian community" of Warangal,” the superior said.
“For his entire life, Fr Antonio chose to serve the poor, giving up new clothes and things that he considered superfluous, like the smartphones he received as gifts and which he donated in turn.”
The missionary, who was a doctor from Legnano (Italy), chose not “to abandon the poor until the point of death, despite having the opportunity to return to Italy for better care."
His last thought, Fr Kumar notes, "was precisely for the sick and the poor. He was worried about them. He told me: 'Who will take care of them?’”
For the Diocese of Warangal, where Fr Antonio worked, and for PIME across India, this will be the challenge: Who will carry the clergyman’s legacy forward, i.e. treating people suffering from leprosy, HIV and TB.
Thanks to the association he set up in 2005, the Sarva Prema Welfare Society, thousands of people have been healed.
"His lay collaborators want to carry on the missionary's commitment,” said Fr Kumar.
PIME superior general Fr Ferruccio Brambillasca, also highlighted the reference to the poor in his condolence message.
Fr Antonio "died on World Day for the Poor, which Pope Francis established last year. Surely Father Grugni will continue with his prayers from high above to protect the poor, the sick and the abandoned he encountered on his earthly journey."
"The value of Fr Grugni’s mission was his charity, his availability to everyone,” Fr Brambillasca added. “His whole life was a living testimony to the Gospel, a spiritual thirst at the service of others."
Fr Kumar noted that Fr Antonio was the last Italian PIME missionary in Warangal. Now "We are all asking ourselves if PIME will die with him or be revitalised. The bishop asked us to stay and continue to serve the people and the work of evangelisation."
"Christians must be like the 'Gospel of the Rose', an expression associated with Mahatma Gandhi, which Fr Grugni liked to repeat,” Fr Kumar said.
“We must enter in the other people’s lives, share their pain, accompany families, have personal relations to communicate the Gospel and the love of Jesus by standing with everyone.”
However, “It is easy to share ideas with the poor, but it is harder to share their poverty. This is what Fr Grugni did for a lifetime, a poor man with the poor.”