By Robin Gomes
The fury of the second wave of Covid-19 infections that has swamped India’s healthcare system has claimed the lives of as many as 14 Catholic priests between April 20 and 23, according to information gathered so far from around the country.
India’s Covid-19 crisis
Media outlets are replete with distressing scenes of hospitals buckling under record surges in the second wave of coronavirus cases. The situation has been exacerbated with critical shortages in beds and ICU facilities, with many suffocating to death due to insufficient supply of oxygen.
The world’s worst coronavirus spike set a new global daily record of infections for the third straight day on Saturday. With 346,786 fresh infections, India has totaled 16 million cases, behind only the United States. The Health Ministry reported another 2,624 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing India’s Covid-19 fatalities to 189,544.
The health crisis has also hit services related to the last rites. Families are waiting for days to cremate their loved ones at overburdened crematoriums, with many turning to makeshift facilities for the last rites.
The Catholic Church in India, which comprises the Latin Rite as well as the Eastern rite Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches, is served by over 30,000 priests, both diocesan and religious. The 14 who died over the past 4 days are among more than 20 priests the Church has lost to the virus over the past one month, Matters India reports.
The latest Covid-19 victim was Father Lijo Thomas of Nagpur Archdiocese. The 38-year-old priest died on April 23 at Christ Hospital, Chandrapur in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, one of the worst-hit states of India.
Earlier in the day, Dumka Diocese in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand lost Father S Christudas, a tribal rights activist. The 58-year-old priest had recovered from Covid-19 a few days ago but died after a fall in the bathroom.
The same day, the deadly virus claimed the lives of Fathers Srinivasan, a member of the Madurai Jesuit province, Diago Dsouza of Bombay Jesuit province, and Arulsamy of the archdiocese of Bhopal in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.
The previous day, April 22, Fathers Martin Anthony of the Archdiocese of Bangalore and Praveen Hrudayaraj of the Karnataka Jesuit province, breathed their last.
The Diocese of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh state lost Father Basant Lakra on April 21. The same day Fathers George Karamayil SJ of Patna, Thomas Akkara SVD, Joseph Cherusseril of Raipur Archdiocese and Theodore Toppo of the Carmelites of Immaculate congregation in Jagdalpur Diocese passed away.
On April 20, the Archdiocese of Raipur in central India’s Chhattisgarh state, lost Father Antony Kunnath. Father Sanjay Francis of Meerut Diocese also died the same day.
Religious communities, including women’s, have also been hit. The toll could be higher. (Source: Matters India)