Mgr Joji Marampudi, archbishop of Hyderabad, dies
The 68-year-old prelate was the first Dalit archbishop of India and had been ill for some time. Converted by PIME missionaries, he was one of the greatest figures of the Catholic Church of India of the last 30 years for his work on behalf of Dalit. His funeral is scheduled for tomorrow.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Mgr Joji Marampudi, archbishop of Hyderabad (Andhra Pradesh), died yesterday at the age of 68. He was the first untouchable to become archbishop and had been ill for quite some time. He is considered one of the greatest figures in India’s Catholic Church for his work on behalf of Dalits. Hundreds of people paid tribute to him, filing past his body, including Konijeti Rosaiah, chief minister of Andhra Pradesh. Mgr Marampudi’s funeral is expected to take place tomorrow in the cathedral of Vijayawada.

Born on 7 October 1942 in Bhimavaran (Andhra Pradesh) in an ethnic Telugu Dalit family, Mgr Marampudi came to Christianity through the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), the first group to bring the Christian mission to the Dalits of the diocese of Hyderabad.

Baptised by PIME Fathers, the prelate became a priest on 14 December 1971 and in 2000, he was appointed archbishop of Hyderabad, the first Dalit to lead an archdiocese. Before that, he had been bishop of Vijayawada. For more than 30 years, he has fought for the emancipation of the untouchables, speaking with the highest religious and political leaders.

“Mgr Marampudi was raised by PIME Fathers, and he always stressed that as a point of honour,” said Fr Giovanni Battista Zanchi, PIME Superior General. “He was very active in his pastoral work and went through difficult times, especially on the issue of caste. However, thanks to his skills as a diplomat he was able to deal with everyone.”

Fr Aloisius Selvakumar (PIME) was Mgr Marampudi’s secretary for three years. He remembers him as an active person. “He knew how to speak to people from every walk of life,” he said. “He always told us to welcome everyone who turned to the Church.”

In praising Mgr Marampudi, Fr Selvakumar also explained that in his ten years of apostolate he was able to renew the spiritual life of the parishes, building new high schools and restoring a number of churches.

In accordance with his wishes, Mgr Marampudi will be buried in Vijayawada.