Archbishop Henry D’Souza, a friend of Mother Teresa, passes away at 90

Archbishop Emeritus Henry D'Souza

Kolkata’s  Retired Prelate

   Great Archbishop, Friend of New

Leader Promoter gone to Heaven

dr. james  kottoor


   James kottoor  Thanks to Matters India, Delhi, I came to know  that  Archbishop Henry D’Souza, a friend of Mother Teresa for more than 35 years and a founding member of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), died of age-related illness on June 27 in Kolkata.

     He was equally a friend and promoter of the over hundred and twenty five years  old New Leader(NL) of Chennai, in the 1970s when dr. james kottoor was its editor and publisher. Aarchbishop Henry was 90 years old and his funeral will be  held on June 30th according to  report in Matters. Precious and manifold were his contributions to the Church in India as the Secretary General of the CBCI and President of the CCBI (Conference of Catholic Bishops of India—Latin rite).

        mother-teresa1-370x290He headed the Archdiocese of Calcutta during 1986-2002, played a crucial role in fast-tracking Blessed Mother Teresa’s canonization process. Archbishop D’Souza often hailed Mother Teresa as “the face of Christ in the world” for spending her life time helping people understand the nature of the divine.

     He was first appointed bishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in 1974. In 1985, he was transferred to  Calcutta  as Coadjutor Archbishop. He succeeded Cardinal Lawrence Picachy as the Archbishop of Calcutta on April 5, 1986 according to Matters India. It was when Henry was the Vicar General to Cardinal Picachy that he had a lot of close contacts and interaction with the Editor of NL.  He started Life Assending, a newsletter for senior citizen, and edited it until the end. This shows his interest in editing and spreading the Good Word through press.

Here I describe  just one incident, among many, to show the interest he took in promoting Catholic publications, especially NL from Chennai.

It was during the time of Cardinal Picachi who took a special interest in NL of Chennai, even when he had his own Archdiocesan weekly The Herald. NL was at its peak of popularity then since it was the most outspoken frankly speaking paper  publishing controversial issues like Birth Conrol, in the wake  Humanae Vitae of Pope Paul VI. NL was the daily recipient of bouquets and brickbats from readers – Right, Left and Centre.

Just think of even Bishops joining in this fray. Cardinal Picachy sent 25 gift subscriptions as a token of his appreciation for the “High standard of Catholic Journalism” of the then New Leader. He wrote several letters in support, so did also Cardinal Gracias of Bombay. Once he even gave an unsolicited advice to other publications, may be he had also Examiner in mind, asking them to “take a cue from the short and crisp editorial notes attached to most piercing letters to make them blunt,” or break their sharp edge. Sharp letters for and against Pope’s encyclical on birth control used to come fast at that time.

At that time CBCI meeting was to be held in Kolkata and New Leader was in the forefront giving publicity to the main theme of the meeting. Unlike what is happening today at that time the theme of such meetings used to be announced months in advance and discussed in public in the Catholic press specially.

As editor I did just that and before going to Kolkata to report the CBCI deliberations, I prepared a special issue on the theme of the meet containing so many letters from all over India responding to our request to readers: “Speak to your pastors through your paper It brought more than two full pages of Tabloid size of NL at that time.

The cartoon on the front page of NL was a Kite Balloon with the inscription “Oh Kolkata” (name of a sexy movie I think), up in the Sky with all bishops dancing around and a string from the floating balloon held by an urchin (lay people) on the ground shouting “Please Come Down.  It was a message to bishops not to make their CBCI discussions too airy and up in the clouds but make them all down-to-earth.

The editor of the NL used to be a regular invitee to all CBCI meets then. Only now it has become all closed door secret meets only for bishops. In Kolkata Cardinal Picachy, in the midst of a crowd of participants, was speaking to me thanking for the publicity NL gave and he said: “New Leader is the best Family Paper which should be promoted. This is not just my personal view but of my Vicar General Henry D’Souza who is a very perceptive person.”

That was a personal boost, bordering on flattery. But I didn’t know what more shocking things were to come. Before official start of the Meet there was the Mass and a sermon focussed on the meet.  Msgr. Henry happened to be the celebrant and speaker.  When he came to the podium for the sermon he didn’t have a bible in hand. Instead he opened one of the copies of the New Leader and read aloud the two-page sprawling banner head line: SPEAK TO YOUR PASTORS THROUGH YOUR PAPER, and showed the letters to the congregation.

 I had brought some hundred copies of that Issue so that all bishops could get a copy and read all the letters from the laity. If there is a better way to get laity participation in CBCI meets, please write to our portal CCV (  Later I had to resign from the editorship, left priesthood, got dispensation, got married etc but none of these things made any change in our relationship and communication. Even last year I got a personal letter from the Retired Archbishop Henry. This was also the case with Archbishop Eugene Desouza of Bhopal, who invited me to stay with him when I announced my decision to leave priesthood. And I did stay with him for few days. 

A lot of changes in the Church is happening due to exemplary leaderships given by great visionaries like Henry, Cardinals Picachy, Gracias and Parfekattil. May their race increase and multiply. May the Lord give eternal rest to the soul of Archbishop Henry and we pray that he guides us from his heavenly abode.

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2 Responses

  1. almayasabdam says:

    Dear Dr Kottoor, I too agree with you that the theory "Sons of the Soil" is harmful and dangerous and have no place in Christian approach; that the fittest person for the post must be found out and appointed irrespective of his class, caste and geographical details,

    But unforunately this is not being followed by our Church hierarchy.  Each region Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa, Ranchi, North-east, Darjeeling Diocese, wants its own priests and nuns, whether they are fit or unfit for the positions of parish priests, heads of institutions and other positions.  The prime duty of ur priests and nuns is to uniformly address common issues like education, health, sanitation, safe drinking water and low-cost housing for all Christians.  But instead of taking these up for 2%+ Christians, on a war footing  like 5-year Plans, they are busy with power mongering.  No diocese can show a perspective and sustainable development plan for its Catholic population..

    Also HOW DOES ONE CHOOSE THE FITTEST AND THE BEST?  Our priests and nuns are mandated to serve the Laity (smell the sheep) 24×7.  But they are chosen by the Bishop.  The Laity except a handful Bishop's yesmen, does not have any say in their selection.

    This is where my December 2013 article Laypeople should have a role in choosing their bishops becomes relevant. The Laity should hae a role in the selection of Bishops, Parish Priests and heads of institutions. 

    One must also read the article "The current method of selecting bishops runs contrary to church tradition"  by  | 

  2. almayasabdam says:

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