Northeast India’s first native prelate dies

By Jose Kavi

New Delhi, Dec. 22, 2018: Bishop Emeritus Robert Kerketta of Tezpur, the first native Catholic prelate from northeastern India, died on December 22.

The death occurred at 12:30 pm at Baptist Christian Hospital in Tezpur, a town in Assam state. The Salesian prelate was 86.

The funeral and burial will take place on December 27 at the Bishop’s House, Priest’s Cemetery, Tezpur, according to a press note from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.

Bishop Kerketta was born on October 22, 1932, and was ordained a priest on February 11, 1963. He was appointed bishop of Dibrugarh in 1970 and ten years later transferred to Tezpur as its third prelate. He retired on December 3, 2017.

Some 20,000 people had attended Bishop Kerketta’s episcopal silver jubilee on October 29, 1995.

On the occasion, Salesian Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil of Guwahati lauded the jubilarian for trying to unite various groups in the region “to build a better society founded on peace.”

Bishop Kerketta often exhorted Salesians to help the upward mobility of the poor in northeastern India. He urged them to recommit in humility to the advancement and empowerment of youth in the region.

He wanted the Salesians to be always prepared to face challenges of working among the poor young people and reminded them that their founder, Saint John Bosco, had nurtured his mission through suffering and pain.

Tezpur, spread across the northern bank of the Brahmaputra river and the western region of Arunachal Pradesh state, has more than 160,000 Catholics belonging to Adivasi, Boro, Nishi, Appathani, Mishing and other native tribes.

Tezpur has mothered four dioceses – Guwahati and Bongaigaon in Assam and Itanagar and Miao in neighboring state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Bhutan was part of Tezpur until it was separated and attached to Darjeeling diocese in West Bengal in 1975.

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4 thoughts on “Northeast India’s first native prelate dies

  1. Not sure if he can be called a native of Assam. He probably belonged to the Oraon tribe of Jharkhand from where the British took adivasi labour to work in their tea estates

  2. Met him in 1982 when I was invited to preach to the people of Arunachal, when my later to be wife was working in the then forbidden land. RIP.

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