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Indian bishop dies of COVID in midst of ongoing crisis


Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore

John Burger - published on 05/06/21 - updated on 05/31/21

Catholic agencies raising funds for India as hospitals there struggle to help the sick.

Archbishop Emeritus Antony Anandarayar of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, India, died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, at the age of 76, according to The Hindu. His death came in the midst of a massive surge in COVID cases on the subcontinent. 

Archbishop Anandarayar died while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at St. Thomas Hospital, Chennai, said the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), in a statement.

“He was admitted in the hospital for COVID-19 treatment and his health condition deteriorated on Tuesday morning as the oxygen saturation level dipped,” the statement said.

The archbishop was laid to rest the next day, May 5, at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Pondicherry. 

On Tuesday, India became the second country, after the United States, to exceed 20 million cases of COVID-19. As of Thursday, World Health Organization figures show the country with a cumulative of more than 21 million cases. The daily death toll began to shoot up in early April, bringing the total now to more than 230,000. Hospitals have been struggling to accommodate patients and provide oxygen. There are scenes of mass funeral pyres and a population overcome with grief.

On Tuesday, Catholic Near East Welfare Association announced a campaign to rush funds to India to help local Churches respond to the escalating crisis.

“We cannot watch this catastrophe unfold and not share the heartbreak and feel the need to help,” said CNEWA President Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari in an appeal to donors.

Emergency campaign funds will aid CNEWA’s partners on the ground — in full compliance with recent Indian legislation regarding foreign aid — to help them distribute PPE, medical care, food packets and vaccines. 

CNEWA has been at the service of the churches and peoples of India for more than eight decades, working closely with the nation’s Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic Churches. 

Malteser International is also raising funds for an emergency response to the Indian crisis.

“The spread of a new coronavirus mutation has led to a dramatic increase in the number of new infections in India over the past few days,” said the organization, which is the charitable arm of the Knights of Malta. “In no other country in the world are so many people being infected with the virus.”

“The news reaching us from India is frightening,” said Cordula Wasser, Head of the Asia Department of Malteser International. “People are dying in front of hospitals because there is no capacity. There is a shortage of oxygen, intensive care beds, and medical supplies. We are doing everything we can to help right now.”

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