08/20/2009, 00.00
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Twenty thousand people say farewell to Mgr Mulagada, India’s first Dalit bishop

The bishop of Eluru has died at the age of 71. He was known as the “people’s prelate” because he was so approachable, but also as the “bishop of shrines” because of his role in getting many Marian shrines built in his diocese. For the archbishop of Hyderabad, “his death is a big loss for the poor and the marginalised.”
Hyderabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – He was the first Dalit to become bishop in India and for 32 years was responsible for the diocese of Eluru, in the State of Andhra Pradesh. Mgr John Mulagada died last Sunday at the age of 71 and his funeral was celebrated on Tuesday at St. Xavier’s Grounds in Eluru in the presence of more than 700 priests and about 1,500 nuns as well as 20,000 people who wanted to pay their last respects to a much beloved man of the Church.

Bishop Mulagada was known as the “people’s prelate” because he was so approachable. But he was also known as the “bishop of shrines” because of the role he played in getting several Marian shrines built in the state. And for many members of local congregations he was their friend because he was the first bishop of the diocese who could speak Telugu, the official language of Andhra Pradesh

“His death is a big loss for the poor and the marginalised,” said Mgr Marampudi Joji, archbishop of Hyderabad and head of the Catholic Church in Andhra Pradesh, during the homily of the funeral Mass.

Bishop Mulagada gave his time and energy to help the needy. Ordinary people remember his commitment to social action, in particular as chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Social Service Society. In that capacity he got schools built to help the poor get a good education, and helped out people living on the coastline who lost their homes to typhoons and monsoon rains.

Born in 1937 in Marriveedu, near the port city of Visakhapatnam, Bishop Mulagada was orphaned at a young age and raised by an aunt and his grandfather.  

He was ordained in the priesthood in 1965, served in various parishes in the old diocese of Visakhapatnam and was eventually appointed bishop of the new diocese of Eluru in 1977.

The city, which is the capital of West Godavari district, became an Episcopal see in December of the previous year, more than a century after PIME missionaries began evangelising in the main cities of Andhra Pradesh, first in Hyderabad and then fanning out to Vijayawada, Warangal, Nalgonda, Khammam and Eluru itself.

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