05/21/2021, 13.27
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Covid has already killed 168 priests and 143 nuns in India

by Nirmala Carvalho

The priests and religious affected in a higher percentage than the rest of the population. The capuchin Fr. Mathew who is collecting the data: "Many even the 40-year-olds. Many nuns who died from the pandemic worked in rural areas where there is no adequate health care".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - In India, the pandemic has so far killed 168 priests and 143 nuns. The figure is provided by Father Suresh Mathew, Capuchin friar and editor-in-chief of the Indian Currents magazine. He is keeping the count of the victims of the clergy and religious which continue to grow because the number of deaths in the country remains high: even today the Indian government speaks of 4,209 victims of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours; the country is now very close to the threshold of 300,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic.

In this general framework, Fr. Mathew tells AsiaNews about his investigation: “During the first wave, we kept reading details of priests who lost their lives in to the Covid 19, however, during the second wave especially after Easter, every day we received news of priests dying of the Corona virus. Being a Missionary priest, I wanted to know the number of the confreres who died, was it due to pastoral service. With journalist interest, I began compiling the list of priest who died in the second wave, I approached deputy secretary general of the CbCI who gave me around 20 names of priests, but Jose Kavi Editor Matters India, gave me the names of numerous priests who succumbed to the virus. Initially I complied a a list of 117 priests, who died, and sent the list out to all the bishops of India, a few replied stating that the particular priest did not die of covid. Today my data record 168 priests - including 3 bishops - and 143 nuns who died from the coronavirus."

Beyond the overall numbers, there are some striking elements: “The mortality rate among priests - continues Fr. Mathew - is higher than the national average, perhaps because they still exercised their pastoral ministry during Easter time. An important fact is the fact that many priests who died of Covid-19 were aged around 40, so they were in their prime. They weren't vaccinated, as doses were only given to those over 45 in April. We need to understand why they are dead, they can't just be numbers”.

“These deaths - comments the Capuchin friar - are the highest form of Christian charity: they died while serving others. Some contracted the virus by presiding over the funerals of confreres, while following all anti-Covid protocols. Many nuns have died in rural areas, where there are no adequate health care facilities. They worked among the poor and the marginalized where there is not even a basic medical centre. One of the dead priests had to travel 450 kilometres to be transferred to a hospital in Ghaziabad, many nuns in the north have died because of this lack of infrastructure”.

Some congregations were particularly affected: “At least 23 priests who died of Covid-19 - comments Fr. Mathew - were Jesuits, while 12 are the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa. Although elderly or with other illnesses, they continued to carry out their service to the community, especially among lepers. Covid-19 was a silent preacher who reminded us of Jesus' message: give your life or you will already be dead. It has offered us a new look at prayer and devotion. It takes very little to return to ashes and then let's focus on compassion, generosity, kindness towards others. This is the testimony of the love of Christ that the priests and nuns who died as a result of Covid-19 in India offered to the end."

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