“This initial list is very alarming as we have only some 30,000 Catholic priests and if four die daily, it is a matter of great concern for all of us.”
At least 120 Catholic priests have died from Covid-19 in India in the past month, or an average of four each day, as the pandemic claims about 4,000 lives daily across the country.
Capuchin Father Suresh Mathew, editor of the church-run Indian Currents magazine, listed the names, dioceses and religious congregations of 117 priests who died in the period from April 10 to May 14.
“The list is incomplete. The death toll will obviously go up as we do not have complete details of the priests who died during this second wave,” Father Mathew told UCA News on May 15.
Of the 117 priests listed, 48 are from different religious orders, with Jesuits topping the list with 19 deaths.
The number of deaths will rise when more information is available from all 174 dioceses in India, the priest said.
“Even this initial list is very alarming as we have only some 30,000 Catholic priests and if four die daily, it is a matter of great concern for all of us,” said Father Mathew.
The list of deceased priests includes religious and diocesan priests working for India’s three ritual Catholic churches — Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara.
“Many priests are dying for want of timely medical care. It is a horrific situation,” said Bishop Gerald Almeida of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh state.
Since mid-April, India has been reporting more than 300,000 new cases daily, with hospitals struggling to overcome a lack of beds, oxygen and vital medicines.
Sick people have filled hospital corridors and compounds, while many have died inside ambulances waiting outside hospitals seeking medical attention.
“I am shocked to know that so many priests have died when priests and vocation to priesthood are very scarce in the country,” Bishop Almeida said.
“I found fear of death is very high among our priests and nuns, and therefore I wanted to tell them that they are not alone and we are with them.
“We all should ensure that their mental health is protected and maintained positively to overcome this calamity.”