Mumbai: ‘shepherd of the last’, Mgr Cheenath’s funeral celebrated
by Nirmala Carvalho

The funeral was held in the Church of the Sacred Heart in the presence of thousands of faithful. After communion, Mgr John Barwa talked about his predecessor, calling him a “dynamic leader, who gave 42 years of life to serve us, the lost, the least and the last. [. . .] Thank you Archbishop Cheenath for All you have done for Orissa.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – All of India’s Catholics said goodbye today to a "dynamic leader, who gave 42 years of life to serve us, the lost, the least and the last. Archbishop Cheenath, you were popularly known as a zealous pastor, a great visionary, an accomplished organiser. With courage and clarity you stood for our justice in the time of Kandhamal riots,” said Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (Orissa), as he remembered Mg. Raphael Cheenath, archbishop emeritus of his diocese, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 82.

The funeral took place today at 3 pm (local time) in the Church of the Sacred Heart in Andheri East (Mumbai). Card Oswald Gracias presided over the celebration, along with 16 archbishops, bishops and several hundred priests, many of them from Odisha (Orissa).

After communion, Mgr Barwa praised the work of his predecessor, who "took care of the victims of violence, fought to stop the trafficking of women, and worked for the rehabilitation and return of houses to affected Christians."

"Our beloved Archbishop Cheenath,” said Mgr Barwa, “you died as a winner since the Supreme Court of India on 2 August granted your petition to enhance relief efforts for victims of the violence against Christians in Kandhamal. The Supreme Court directed the Odisha government to give will additional compensation".

"My people in the Archdiocese are truly proud people today of their faith and their ever loving God. They have their unshakable faith strengthened by you being their leader and good shepherd. Today, our people in Kandhamal repeat the words of St. Paul, ‘We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed’.”

Mgr Cheenath was buried in the cemetery of the Divine Word. A large bouquet of flowers was placed next to the grave with the words, “Thank you Archbishop Cheenath for all you have done for Orissa”.