Jammu: Retired Bishop Peter Celestine Elampassery of Jammu-Srinagar died early Wednesday following a massive heart attack. He was 77.
The Capuchin prelate, who won Gandhi Peace Award for his efforts to bring peace in Kashmir, died in Assisi Capuchin Ashram, Bharananganam, Kerala, where he was leading his retirement life.
In a condolence message, Bishop Ivan Pereira, who succeeded Bishop Elampassery as Jammu-Srinagar prelate, has declared seven-day mourning for the northernmost Indian diocese.
The funeral is scheduled for 2 pm on May 30 at the same ashram where the bishop died. The place is associated with Saint Alphonsa, Asia’s first woman saint.
Jammu-Srinagar diocese will offer the Requiem Mass at 5 pm on Thursday at St. Mary’s Cathedral Church, Jammu.
Bishop Elampassery worked hard to spread education and social service in India’s only Muslim-majority state. He believed that health care, education, and social service were the best option to make Christian witness felt in the region.
Taking into account the prevailing political scenario in Kashmir, Bishop Elampassery suggested formation of peace clubs in schools, cross-border dialogue, and inter-religious meets. In recognition of such initiatives, he was awarded Gandhi Peace Award.
He took several initiatives to spread the Church and advance local people’s welfare. He reopened mission in Leh, headquarters of Ladakh region. He also set up a new mission in Batote, Karanbagh, Kargil that was a scene of bitter war between India and Pakistan in 1999.
The diocese undertook massive relief and rehabilitation of people displaced by the Kargil war, earthquake in Uri – Baramulla in 2005, cloudburst in Leh in 2010 and floods in Kashmir in 2014.
Bishop Elampassery was born in Muttuchira, Kerala on June 28, 1938. After matriculation, he joined the Capuchins and took his vows in 1963. He was ordained priest three years later, and was sent to work in Agra mission in northern India. He acquired doctorate in Missiology from Rome’s Gregorian University in 1978.
In 1980, he took charge as the Mission Superior of Capuchins in northern India. He was later posted to Jammu-Srinagar Mission as the Pro-Prefect Apostolic. He worked in Jammu and helped open several mission stations.
When the Apostolic Prefecture was made a diocese in 1986, Fr Elampassery was appointed its first vicar general. In 1997, he was transferred to Assam-Meghalaya Mission as the Provincial Delegate. A year later, he returned to Jammu-Srinagar diocese as its second bishop.
Bishop Elampassery undertook several studies on the Capuchin Mission in India and compiled two books, “Early Capuchin Mission in India” and “North Indian Capuchin Mission 1972-1992.”
In July 2012, he suffered a stroke and underwent open-heart surgery. Because of ill health, he resigned in 2013 and Rome accepted it on December 3, 2014.
As health deteriorated, he returned to Bharananganam.