Odisha mourns two of its priests who died from COVID-19
by Nirmala Carvalho

The disease has taken the lives of a young missionary from Kandhamal district and the vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar. For Archbishop Barwa, we are in God's hands, and must continue to serve our brothers and sisters.

 


Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The COVID-19 wave that is bringing India to its knees is hitting priests hard too. The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar reported the deaths of two priests within hours of each.

“On Saturday we mourned the death of Father Bimal Nayak, a young missionary from Kandhamal district, the one most affected by the violence of Hindu fundamentalists in 2008. I had ordained him priest for the Indian Missionary Society,” said Archbishop John Barwa.

“Then it happened to my vicar general, Father Prasanna Pradhan,” the prelate added. Originally from the parish of Mondasoro, he had just turned 59.

He was the son of a great catechist in the community and served his ministry in many villages. But he was also a respected scholar with a doctorate in Biblical Sciences from Rome. A simple, honest man, he was much loved by everyone, a pillar of the archdiocese.

Father Bimal Nayak, who was only 35 years old, died in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, where he had travelled for his ministry.

Taken to the hospital of Banaras Hindu University, treatment proved hopeless despite his young age. He was buried in the cemetery of the mother house of the Indian Missionary Society in Christnagar.

“In these days of uncertainty we are called to be even more closely connected to God and surrender everything into his hands,” said Archbishop Barwa. “Our talents, our abilities matter less today.”

“Our will must be only to do His will and be witnesses to His love by loving our neighbours. Let us obey the Golden Rule: love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself”.

In 2015, Father Nayak's priestly ordination was the first in the history of his parish in Pokari, Kandhamal district. Kiran, as the young man was then known in the village, was a talented young man, the son of a Baptist pastor. He was oriented towards and music and singing, and he released an album of his own.

After his priestly ordination, he worked initially as a missionary in the Diocese of Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh, at the mission near Bhagawanpura, a distant village where he actively involved in bringing back to the Church Catholics who had drifted away amid a thousand difficulties.

Lately he had now been put in charge of the Nandganj mission, a few kilometres from Varanasi, where he was highly regarded, above all for his youth ministry.

Everyone remembers him as a tireless missionary, as if he already knew he had little time. He knew how to work with everyone and had many Hindu friends.

His parents “are sad,” said his mother's  brother, Prados Chandra Nayak speaking to AsiaNews.

“They had already offered their son to God and knew he was no longer ours, but our sadness stems from the fact that they had not been able to see him since last March, due to the lockdown.

“Even in last few days when the disease developed, they could not take care of him. But Father Bimal was already in God's hands and this gives us peace.”

The deaths of priests in Odisha lengthens the list of Indian clergymen who have died from the virus.

The website Matters India reported the death of 14 priests in the last four days alone in the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand.

This is a disturbing number according to the site considering that India has just over 30,000 priests in total, both diocesan and religious.

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