India’s Catholic Church Struggling With COVID Deaths Among Priests

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By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent

(Worthy News) – ’s says the pandemic is killing many Catholic leaders. Some 160 Catholic priests have died from in the past five weeks, or an average of 4 each day, according to figures published Monday.

Capuchin Priest Suresh Mathew, the editor of the -run Indian Currents magazine, compiled a list of at least 160 late diocesan and religious priests. He said all died between April 10 to May 17 of COVID-19.

Besides priests, at least three bishops reportedly died in recent weeks. Retired Archbishop Antony Anandarayar of Pondicherry-Cuddalore and Bishop Basil Bhuriya of Jhabua died on May 5 and 6, respectively. Retired Bishop, Joseph Pastor Neelankavil of Sagar of the Syro-Malabar rite, died on February 17, this year, according to Radio.

Of the 160, more than 60 are from religious orders, with Jesuits topping the list with 24 deaths, the data showed.

Mathew cautioned that the list is incomplete as many deaths in the “second wave” of the pandemic have not been reported from all of the country’s 174 dioceses.

“Even this initial list is very alarming, as we have only some 30,000 Catholic priests, and if four die daily, it is a matter of great concern for all of us,” he told Vatican Radio.

The list of deceased priests includes religious and diocesan priests of the Catholic Church of India. The denomination comprises the Latin-rite Church and the two eastern-rites, the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara Churches.

It comes amid broader concerns about the coronavirus pandemic in a nation where general hospitals are often ill-equipped to deal with patients.

Since mid-April, India has been reporting more than 300,000 new cases daily, with hospitals saying they are in acute shortage of beds, oxygen, and vital medicines.

Sick people have filled hospital corridors and compounds, according to Christians familiar with the situation. Officially some 300,000 people have died of COVID-19 causes on a population of more than 1.3 billion, but critics say the death toll is higher.

Many have reportedly died inside ambulances waiting outside hospitals seeking medical attention.

Crematoriums and burial grounds have been overwhelmed with vast numbers of dead bodies lining up, Vatican Radio reported.

The situation has become even more -rending with images of numerous bodies floating. It had underscored the dramatic differences between the emerging middle class and many deeply impoverished people in India.

Many poor people unable to bear the expenses of paying their last respects to their loved ones are dumping them into the rivers.

Besides the Catholic Church, other denominations and mission groups have also reported suffering and deaths among church workers.

Adding to difficulties are reports of persecution of Christians in several parts of the mainly nation.

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