By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, March 17, 2019: The Catholic bishops of India on March 17 joined political and social leaders to mourn the death of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, an alumnus of a Church school.
Parrikar, who had been battling pancreatic cancer for more than a year, died in the evening at his son’s home in Panaji, the state capital. He was 63.
“We can truly say that Goa and India have lost a great leader and the Christian community has lost a sincere and honest friend,” says a condolence message from the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India that expressed “profound sorrow at the sad demise.”
The conference offered condolences to Parrikar’s two sons and other family members. “We pray for the repose of his soul,” adds the message issued soon after the death was announced.
The news about the death was first announced in a tweet from President Ram Nath Kovind.
“Extremely sorry to hear of the passing of Shri Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister of Goa, after an illness borne with fortitude and dignity. An epitome of integrity and dedication in public life, his service to the people of Goa and of India will not be forgotten,” the president tweeted.
Later, Parrikar’s office said, “Manohar Parrikar passed away today evening, after a spirited battle against cancer.”
The bishop hail Parrikar’s courage and determination. “Till his last breath, he was the epitome of a man with a fighting spirit, battling even disease and death,” says the message signed by conference secretary general Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, a priest from Goa.
“We are proud that in his childhood, he was a student of a Catholic educational institution, Loyola High School, Margao, and are happy that the Catholic Church was instrumental in contributing to the education of such a prominent, dedicated and committed leader,” the press statement adds.
It thanked Parrikar for his collaboration and support to the Church and his “sensitivity to the needs of the Christian community.”
The statement recalls how Parrikar restored Good Friday as a holiday in 2012 after admitting that the state government’s earlier decision to cancel was an error.
Parrikar had also shown keen interest in the visit of Pope Francis to India and had promised that he would personally follow it up with the concerned authorities, the bishops’ statement says.
“We feel sad that the visit did not take place in his life time. But the Church in India will remain ever grateful to him for his kindness towards the Christian community, despite occasional disagreements which were always sorted out through dialogue,” it adds.
Meanwhile, the federal government has announced a day’s national mourning on March 18, during which all schools and colleges in Goa would be shut.
Parrikar’s health had been fluctuating for several days and worsened on March 16 morning. The former Defense Minister had been in and out of hospital in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and New York since February 2018. Last month, he was admitted in the Goa Medical College and Hospital near Panaji.
In January, the four-time chief minister had said he would “serve Goa till my last breath.” His party men acknowledged him as their leader even on March 17 morning in face of Congress attempts to dislodge the government and accusations that the party has fallen below halfway mark in the state assembly.
Over the recent months, Parrikar had made public appearances with a tube in his nose, looking frail. He had turned up at the state assembly to present the budget, triggering Congress allegations that the BJP was parading him around despite his condition to save its government in the state.
After his death was announced this evening, political leaders from across party lines expressed their grief.