Readers of CNEWA’s ONE magazine and its blog may be familiar with the story of Jacob Mar Barnabas, O.I.C. He is the bishop responsible for the ministries of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church scattered throughout the north of India and based in the capital city of New Delhi.
Despite the dangers of COVID-19, Mar Barnabas has led his flock in reaching out to the most vulnerable since the pandemic began there, providing meals, personal protective equipment and hygiene kits to jobless and penniless families crushed by the effects of the pandemic.
“Bishopji,” said the first families who sought his help, “where shall we go? We don’t have any other place to go. Please help us.”
CNEWA has been a major provider of support for the work of Mar Barnabas and the social service societies of the Syro-Malankara Church throughout Delhi and 13 other states under his care. And for his work among the poorest of the poor, Mar Barnabas was nominated for a respected national award.
Today, Mar Barnabas lies in a Catholic hospital in Delhi in critical condition. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 three weeks ago.
“On 16 April he was admitted to Holy Family Hospital [in] New Delhi with symptoms of fever and weakness,” wrote Father John Felix, O.I.C., in a letter to CNEWA on 8 May. Father John administers the social service work of the Eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon-Delhi, which Mar Barnabas shepherds.
One week later, the bishop was diagnosed with COVID-19 and put on medication. As his oxygen saturation levels declined, his condition deteriorated further, and he was moved to the intensive care unit. On Friday, 7 May, he received “ventilator support” and his condition is described as critical.
“Irrespective of his poor health,” Father John continued, “he was anxious about the poor on the street that they are getting food daily or not. We [have] tried our best to fulfill his dreams and we solicit the support of CNEWA to ensure the distribution of food for the poor.”
On Sunday, Baselios Mar Cleemis, major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, named an administrator, ad interim, to guide the eparchy for as long as “the health of His Excellency Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas hinders his ability to handle his responsibilities.”
Father Varghese Vinayanand, a member of the Order of Imitation of Christ, assumes his role as caretaker for the sprawling eparchy, as Christians, Hindus and Muslims pray for a man who wrote: “God has called me to radiate his love and care to those brothers and sisters without looking at their faith, caste, color or language.”
Please pray for the recovery of Jacob Mar Barnabas, and for all those suffering the ravages of this pandemic, which continues to plague our world.
To learn how you can ensure that the good work of Mar Barnabas and the church throughout India continues, please click here.
Our Lady of Good Health, pray for us.
Michael J.L. La Civita is CNEWA’s communications director.