India mourns Fernandes, a Catholic politician
by Nirmala Carvalho

Oscar Fernandes, who hailed from Karnataka, died yesterday at the age of 80. A leading member of the Indian National Congress, he served as a minister in the Singh government. For Cardinal Gracias, India “lost a true patriot” who ““always upheld Gospel values in public.”

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Indian political leaders and the Catholic Church are mourning Oscar Fernandes who passed away yesterday.

The Indian Catholic politician was a veteran member of the Indian National Congress and a former Minister of Transport and Labour in the cabinets chaired by Manmohan Singh.

Fernandes, who hailed Udupi district (Karnataka), died at the age of 80 in a Mangalore hospital.

One of Sonia Gandhi's closest aides, she knew him from the time she served as parliamentary assistant to her husband, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was killed in 1991.

Gandhi described him as “a veteran parliamentarian, a sensitive minister who championed the cause of labour and underprivileged”

Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed his condolences for this death.

In a statement, Archbishop Card Oswald Gracias of Bombay (Mumbai), president of the catholic Bishops' Conference of India, remembered Fernandes as “a staunch Catholic” who “always upheld Gospel values in public.”

“I often interacted with Fernandes and always felt he put the interests of the people as a priority,” the prelate said. “The country has lost a true patriot who gave his all for the nation”. His death leaves a great void in his family and friends.

Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha of Mangalore spoke about the role Fernandes played in the life of his state, promoting the welfare of the people of Karnataka during his tenure in office without distinction of caste, creed or colour.

Bishop Gerald Lobo of Udupi, his hometown, also remembers the late politician. “He had a magnetic personality and helped many grow, leading them to overcome their difficulties and problems.”

What is more, "As a true Catholic he always maintained cordial relations with others, including people of other religions, always representing everyone in his political activity.”