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Former head of diocese passes away

Archbishop Emeritus Benedict John Osta SJ passed away in the city on Thursday morning, leaving a void among the people he touched. He was 82.

On hearing the news, several members of the community turned up at Kurji Holy Family Hospital where Osta breathed his last at 5.20am. The funeral of Osta, the former Archbishop of the Patna Archdiocese, would be held at the Queen of the Apostles Church, Kurji, at 2pm on Saturday. He would be laid to rest at the cemetery of Xavier’s Teachers’ Training Institute in Digha Ghat.

He was born on August 15, 1931, in Bettiah and was ordained as a Bishop on the St Xavier’s School campus in June 1980. When the Patna diocese was elevated to an Archdiocese in 1999, he was made the first Archbishop. Resigning from his post in 2007, Osta lived on the teachers’ training institute campus since 2008.

Most of the missionary schools, including St Joseph’s Convent High School, Don Bosco Academy and Notre Dame Academy, would be closed on February 1 as a tribute to Osta.

People close to Osta said apart from a fading memory, he could move around on his own without any difficulty and did not have too many health problems.

Johnson Kelakath S.J., a priest at the Queen of the Apostles Church who was close to Osta, said: “Lately, he had to be persuaded to take his food and once was admitted to Kurji Holy Family Hospital for a stomach problem. He was released within a few days, but on January 23, his condition started deteriorating. He went into a coma. He would not take any food and had to be put on a liquid diet fed intravenously. He had gastroenteritis and other related complications. On his doctor’s advice, he was admitted to Kurji Holy Family Hospital. His death has created a void in our life. He would be missed by all of us not only because he was the former Archbishop but because he was a good human being.”

St Xavier’s College principal Father Nishant said Osta’s contributions to uplift the downtrodden people could not be forgotten. “One of his remarkable contributions was starting Sewa Kendra, which works towards the uplift of financially backward people. It provides poor children non-formal education, organises healthcare programmes for women and has formed several self-help groups.”

St Joseph’s Convent High School principal Sister Lucina said: “Our school will be closed on Saturday to mark Osta’s death.”

Don Bosco Academy director Alfred de Rozario said: “We have decided to close our school on February 1 to pay tribute to Osta. This is our way to pay tribute to him.”

Loyola High School principal Father Satish said: “We have not decided yet if we would keep our school closed.”