Shillong (Agenzia Fides) - Condolences and expressions of solidarity and deep gratitude were expressed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who led political and religious leaders to mourn the death of 68-year-old Archbishop Dominic Jala of Shillong in a car accident in California (USA) on 10 October. Meanwhile, the Catholic community in the state of Meghalaya (Northeastern India), where he was born and where he carried out his episcopal ministry, is immersed in prayer.
The Salesian Archbishop "will be remembered for his impeccable service to society and passion towards Meghalaya’s progress. May his soul rest in peace", tweeted the Indian Prime Minister on 12 October, soon after the news of the Catholic prelate.
The accident reportedly occurred around 11 pm October 10 (10:30 am on October 11 India time) when Archbishop Jala was traveling to Clearlake in California along with Fathers Mathew Vellankal and Joseph Parekkatt, two Indian priests working in the United States. Father Vellankal, who was driving, and Archbishop Jala who was on the front seat died on the spot while Parekkatt suffered serious wounds and admitted to a hospital.
The Archbishop, after having taken part in the "Ad limina visit" of the bishops of northeastern India, in the Vatican, had gone to the United States to attend an International Commission meeting for the liturgy and to meet some priest friends.
The Archbishop was the first prelate from the Khasi tribe, one of prominent ethnic groups. The news about the archbishop’s death has created shock and sadness. The people particularly the Catholic faithful across Meghalaya and the region recall the life and contribution of Archbishop Jala to society.
Expressing shock and grief, the priests and religious of Shillong Archdiocese said: "It is really a sad news for all of us to learn that our beloved Archbishop passed away, far away from his homeland, far away from us. We are awaiting return of his mortal remains and after that we can arrange for the date and time of the funeral. As of now, we urge everyone to pray for us, to pray for our archdiocese and especially to pray for the soul of archbishop".
Numerous political leaders in Meghalaya, such as the Prime Minister of the state, Conrad Sangma, have sent messages of condolences and solidarity.
Mgr. John Moolachira, Archbishop of Guwahati and the president of the Council of Catholic Bishops of Northeast India, wrote: "We entrust his soul into the hands of his creator. We the Catholic Bishops of North East India are grieved at his departure but at the moment of pain we turn to the priests, religious and faithful of the Archdiocese of Shillong who mourn their beloved Archbishop: we pray for the eternal repose of the departed soul and for the archdiocese of Shillong" (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 14/10/2019)