Rallies and liturgies were held across the country to remember the Jesuit who died after months in prison on false “terrorism” charges. For Card Oswald Gracias of Bombay, this is a way “to keep alive in our hearts the desire to work for the poor and the abandoned.”
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Catholic communities across India remembered Fr Stan Swamy yesterday marking a National Day of Solidarity.
The Jesuit clergyman from Jharkhand died from COVID-19 on 5 July. The 84-year-old contracted the disease in prison after he was arrested in October 2020 on “terrorism” charges for his work on behalf of tribal communities.
Following a request from the local province of the Jesuit order, Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Bombay (Mumbai) and president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), invited all Indian dioceses to publicly remember the clergyman.
For the prelate, this is a way “to keep alive in our hearts the desire to work for the poor and the abandoned” as Fr Swamy did.
A public meeting was held at the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Delhi, during which Prof Apoorvanand of Delhi University noted that “in prison Fr Stan did not ask for mercy, but respect for his rights.”
Similar initiatives took place in many other cities, including Ranchi, Kolkata (Calcutta), and Jamshedpur.
In Bangalore Jerald D'Souza, director of St Joseph's College of Law, one of the promoters of the commemoration, said: “Some ask us why a priest cannot stop at his pious devotions. They fail to see the greater issues of democracy and the defence of legality; they tend to allow themselves to be misinformed. Others, however, have come here anyway; his death has awakened many.”
A poignant ceremony was held yesterday in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, where Fr Swamy joined the Jesuits in 1957. His ashes made a stop in this city where a prayer was recited in the Cathedral of St Joseph, followed by a public rally.
Even in Odisha (Orissa), scene of the worst anti-Christian pogrom in 2008, local communities remember Fr Swamy for his work.
“His death,” said Archbishop of John Barwa Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, “sparked outrage across the country.
“We are not here only to keep his memory alive but also to support his work among the marginalised, especially tribal people,” said the prelate. “Fr Stan raised a new generation of people with a deeper sensitivity for the poor.”