Pune: ‘Singing Bishop’ Valerian D’Souza passes away, final rites today

Anuradha Mascarenhas
Pune Bishop Valerian D’Souza , Valerian D’Souza death, Bishop of Pune Valerian D’Souza, Indian Express news

Rt Rev Valerian D’Souza

Clergy and layman alike will remember Rt Rev Valerian D’Souza as the man of the masses. D’Souza — who was the Bishop of Pune for 32 years, till 2009, and the Emeritus Bishop since then — died late on Tuesday at Sahyadri Specialty Hospital from multi-organ failure. He was 86.

“People-oriented”: this is how Cardinal Oswald Gracias described Bishop D’Souza. The Cardinal, one of the six advisors to Pope Francis, will conduct the funeral mass for the late Bishop at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Thursday.

Cardinal Gracias, who is also the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), told The Indian Express that while Bishop D’Souza was recognised as a “singing Bishop” (he sang well and played the guitar), his liturgy was important.

“He loved the church so much that it is a big loss not just for Pune but also for the state and the country,” said the Cardinal.

D’Souza was the Bishop of Pune from September 1977 till April 2009. He was appointed diocesan administrator of Pune till his successor, the present Bishop Thomas Dabre, was appointed in 2009. “Even after retiring, he was actively involved in the pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Poona,” said Bishop Dabre.

On Thursday, the funeral mass will be conducted by Cardinal Gracias, along with Bishop Dabre, at St Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by the burial. Bishop D’Souza’s body will be kept at the cathedral from 9 am.

Fr Malcolm Sequeira, the vicar general of the Poona diocese, said, “All his life as a priest and a Bishop, he played a significant role in building the lives of many. He set up many institutions to help the poor and the needy. I was very close to him. He would often call me to hand over money that he had received from the people. He would say, ‘Malcolm, help a poor person with this money. God gives me and I want to give to others’. He was truly a man for others.”

Fr Sequeira said the late Bishop was a great spiritual leader and even the Vatican had recognised his spiritual depth by inviting him to preach a retreat for priests from across the world.

Born on October 3, 1933, Bishop D’Souza obtained his university degree before taking a licentiate in philosophy at the Papal Seminary in Pune. He studied theology at the Jesuit-run faculty Sankt George in Frankfurt, and was ordained priest on June 29, 1961. He also obtained a Bachelor of Education degree and was the principal of Garrison High School (now St Jude High School) at Dehu Road for seven years. He was ordained the Bishop of Poona on September 25, 1977.

Bishop Lourdes Daniel of the Diocese of Nashik specially remembered how Bishop D’Souza had moulded him to become a priest. “He was our role model. He had real concern for the poor and his life was full of prayer. I was the vicar general from 2001 to 2007 during his tenure as Bishop of Poona and he trusted me a lot. He was very generous about sharing his authority and gave me the freedom to interact with priests. He would often send me to bless chapels or inaugurate schools,” he recalled.

Bishop Alwyn Barreto of the Sindhudurg diocese remembered how the late Bishop would sing, play the guitar and pass on messages to the people through his stories. “He also had a great sense of humour, which touched the hearts of people,” he added.