Tribute: Patrick D'Souza, Bishop Emeritus of Varanasi
October 26, 2014

A pillar of Indian Catholic Church, he revolutionized the Indian Church’s attitude to laity, media and inculturation.

1 Kings, 19:19-21 Elijah found Elisha by Divine direction, not in the schools of the prophets, but in the field; not reading, or praying, or sacrificing, but ploughing. 

In the year 1940, the then Vicar Priest of St Sebastian Church, Bendur paid a visit to the house of Marian D'Souza and Dulsin Flora Pinto, requesting to dedicate some of their children in the service of the Lord. This divine call turned on to their 7th child out of 15 children, 12 years old boy Patrick Paul who willingly accepted to join minor seminary in Ajmer, Rajasthan. This is the beginning of boy Patrick becoming Br Patrick, who did his college and Latin studies in Ajmer Seminary before proceeding to Mangalore for Philosophy studies at St Joseph Seminary, Jeppu. For theological studies he was sent to Rome in 1950. Deacon Patrick Paul was ordained as a Priest in the year 1953, December 20. Later, Rev Fr Patrick Paul did doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1956. Back in Ajmer, he was the Principal of a College and from there he was appointed as the Secretary General of the CBCI (Catholic Bishops Conference of India). He was nominated as Bishop of newly created Varanasi Gorakhpur on June 5, 1970 and ordained as Bishop on August 8, 1970. 

Bishop Patrick was the youngest Bishop to be appointed at that time. Bishop Emeritus of Varanasi, Patrick D'Souza served God and His people, as a priest for 60.8 years and Bishop for 44.2 years. Bishop D’Souza, the first prelate of Varanasi, died on Thursday October 16 at a Catholic hospital in Mau, some 120 km north of the ancient city. On Saturday October 18, Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulangara of Nagpur led the funeral Mass at the bishop’s house, assisted by several bishops and 450 priests. Jesuit Archbishop William D’Souza of Patna led the funeral rites in the cathedral. More than 7,000 people from various religions and walks of life bid tearful farewell to Bishop Patrick Paul D’Souza. Paying great tributes, people lined up until late evening to pay floral tribute at the tomb.

Although the late Bishop Patrik Paul D'Souza is a Mangalorean, most Mangaloreans do not know him entirely because he left Mangalore at the age of 12, lived a priestly life for 60 years and as a Bishop 37 years in Northern India, Varanasi. 

Bishop Patrick is a Pride of Mangalore and should make every Mangalorean proud too. Therefore, we the family of Bishop Patrick, from his brother’s side and sister’s side feel it is the right time for us to offer Glory back to God and to Thank the Lord for the vocation of Bishop Emeritus of Varanasi, Patrick D'Souza. 

Many a time I ponder and wonder at the marvelous ways of God as to why this boy at the age of 12 years was called in the service of God. However, you will read below Testimonials and Achievements of Bishop Patrick and thereafter everyone will have an answer as to why our Good Lord chose boy Patrick Paul and commissioned him to North India for His mission. 

Bishop Patrick D’Souza, as the first Bishop of the newly created Mission Diocese of Varanasi had many challenges before him. He was a great missionary with indefatigable zeal and enthusiasm with which he guided the destiny of the people, entrusted to his care for a period of almost 37 years, attending to their pastoral and spiritual needs, as well as, bringing substantial improvement in the lives of the people in the social, educational and health care fields. 

Bishop Patrick D’Souza took special efforts to bring together people of different faiths to preserve peace and harmony. He was known in Varanasi and elsewhere in India as a man of inter-religious dialogue, who always walked shoulder to shoulder with other religious groups. While actively involving in promoting inter-religious dialogue and ecumenism, Bishop Patrick laid firm basis and foundation for Christianity in the very Centre of Hinduism in the holy place of Banaras/Kashi (Varanasi). He strove hard to present Jesus and His Gospel to thousands of people in a place, which is predominantly non-Christian. He spearheaded many projects and programmes aimed at establishing power-centres from where the Person and Message of Jesus Christ were transmitted and telecasted to far and distant places. The present Cathedral, built and blessed in 1993, with its unique Indian architectural exquisites stands out as a unique place of worship in the temple city of Banaras. The Bible Exhibition located in the Cathedral Basement is a powerful means of Proclamation and Evangelization, attracting thousands of people all through these years.


Besides shepherding his flock in the diocese of Varanasi and actively involving in the various activities connected with Proclamation and Evangelization, Ecumenism and Dialogue, Bishop Patrick D’Souza rendered yeoman service to the Church in India as Secretary General of CBCI from 1972-1979, as Chairman of the CBCI Commission for Social Communications and as the first Chairman of the National Institute of Social Communications, Research and Training (NISCORT). Bishop Patrick D’Souza was mainly responsible for founding the NISCORT. 

He not only served the Church of Varanasi for long time but also the entire Church of India in various capacities. He was an ardent missionary and worked strenuously for the growth of the Church especially at the very heart of religious beliefs of Hinduism.

His death is a real loss for the whole Church of India. He was an excellent preacher, a good administrator and possessed extraordinary skill of communication. A man with tremendous vision for the Church in India and he was instrumental in the establishment of Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra.Bishop 

• As a priest, Bishop D’Souza also helped organize the Church in Seminar at Bangalore in 1969 to help the Indian Church assimilate the teachings of the Vatican Second Council.

• Bishop D’Souza set up Nav Sadhna (new spiritual exercise), a regional pastoral center, in Varanasi to promote interreligious dialogue, inculturation and lay leadership. “He believed in proclaiming the Gospel through laity’s collaboration.

• He encouraged the publication of the first Hindi-language version of the Everyday Prayer Book as a “great step toward inculturation of Christianity” and “a landmark in Indian Church history.”

• Bishop D’Souza built a cathedral with a Hindu-Buddhist architectural pattern in Varanasi as an answer to Christians´ alienation from the nation´s cultural mainstream. The cathedral was the result of the local Church´s dialogue with the heartland of Hindu intellectualism. “Mariam Mandir” (temple of Mary) has now become a major tourist attraction in the city.

• Bishop D’Souza also played lead roles in the Asian Church scene. He was the head of the Office for Evangelization under the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

• He was also instrumental in publishing an ecumenical Bible in Hindi. He encouraged the publication of the first Hindi-language version of the Everyday Prayer Book as a “great step toward inculturation of Christianity” and “a landmark in Indian Church history.”“Unless our Church starts using the language of the local people, we will remain foreign, as we are now, even after 2,000 years of existence,” he had said on the occasion of its publication. He was also instrumental in publishing an ecumenical Bible in Hindi.

Bishop D’Souza built a cathedral with a Hindu-Buddhist architectural pattern in Varanasi as an answer to Christians´ alienation from the nation´s cultural mainstream. The cathedral was the result of the local Church´s dialogue with the heartland of Hindu intellectualism. “Mariam Mandir” (temple of Mary) has now become a major tourist attraction in the city.

Bishop D’Souza was buried in front of the cathedral , Mata Mandir (temple of mother), the cathedral church that he had built to present Christ in the heart of the holiest city of Hindus, Varanasi

May his death may he inspire many more especially in promoting the local church with local culture and local vocations.

Prominent Testimonials

• Condolence message from Pope Francis that highlighted Bishop D’Souza’s “long life and priestly service, especially his apostolic zeal” as the founding bishop of the diocese. He further added that bishop was as a shepherd, father and friend; teacher and leader; man on a mission indeed.

• Bishop Raphy Manjaly of Allahabad, hailed the late prelate as “a precious pearl that we have lost forever.” Bishop Manjaly, who had succeeded Bishop D’Souza as the Varanasi prelate, said the entire Church in northern India was sad “because we have lost a shepherd of his flock, who gave life to the diocese, in various ways. He was a man of vision who toiled for peace and harmony, national integrity and opened avenues for differently-abled children.”

• Bishop emeritus Antony Fernandez of Bareilly, who represented all the bishops of the region, commended Bishop D’Souza’s contribution to the local culture, hymns and language. “Today he has given us a challenge to stride the path as he had done,” Bishop Fernandez said.

• Father Maurice D’Souza, who represented the diocesan priests, said the growth of the diocese under Bishop D’Souza was indescribable. “His toil is today’s fruit,” he added.

• “A big loss for the Church,” said John Dayal, former president of the All India Catholic Union, mourning the death of Bishop D’Souza whom he hailed as “the father of social communication” in the Indian Church. The lay leader said the prelate’s death is “a shock” and “a great personal loss” for him. “He was one of my early patrons together with Archbishops Alan (de Lastic) and Vincent (Concessao),” added the secretary general of the ecumenical All India Christian Council. 

• Fr Eugene Joseph, administrator of Varanasi diocese, said Bishop D’Souza was “one of the stalwarts” of the Church in India, who pioneered many movements and set up several institutions. The Indian Church benefited from his leadership qualities in many ways for more than half a century, Fr Joseph told Matters India.

• Mary D’ Souza, wife of late Leo D’ Souza, brother of Bishop Patrick, well-known writer and poet and mother of Judith Fernandes, Sunith Joyce Alvaris, Canada, Sandeep D Souza, Fr Sudhir D’ Souza said, “My bother in law Bishop Patrick lived a simple life on earth, was a true missionary and a great spiritual personality. He was an exemplary person for all. Bishop Patrick had served his Catholic Diocese with lot of affection and dedication, has been popular among the Catholic faithful and inter-religion. Of his many achievements is the Cathedral at Varanasi that was built during his tenure; it has been a main attraction of this city. Bishop Patrick was primarily responsible for making the Church in Uttar Pradesh and in north India in general a truly incarnated Church, incarnated into the very soil of North India!" 

• Bishop Ignatius D' Souza, Bareilly: "The Church of North India is mourning the loss of Bishop Patrick D’Souza of the Diocese of Varanasi. Bishop Patrick served his diocese since his consecration in 1970 with distinction and dedication. He was an able theologian with a remarkable intellect. He will be best remembered for his energy and mission. He gave purpose and direction to his diocese and inspired those around him to do great things. He was also a man with a sense of joy who could lift us all with his sense of humor."

• Sister Savina MSA: "Bishop has been very dear to the heart of every Mission Sister and we have experienced his fatherly love and concern, having served as a mentor to a number of our Sisters. We have lost a true missionary and a great spiritual personality. The Clergy and faithful not only of Varanasi but the whole of North India will surely testify of his love for humanity and his great enthusiasm for the proclamation of the Gospel. We thank God for his invaluable contribution to the growth and development of the Church when serving as the Secretary General of the CBCI( Catholic Bishop’s conference of India) I pray that His soul rest in peace with the certainty that the Good Shepherd has already welcomed in eternal life this generous and committed Pastor of his flock."

• Chhotebhai, ex New Leader editorials: "Bp Patrick was a unique person, unparalleled in recent ecclesial history, especially in North India. A giant tree has fallen. Fr. Patrick, secretary general of the CBCI. He was the priest in Charge under Fr. Balaguer SJ, Vicar General to Cardinal Gracias, Bombay, to organize the Church in India Seminar Ever since that friendship and collaboration continued and when he was made bishop, I wrote an editorial in New Leader and concluded half in joke 'with the elevation Patrick as Bishop, we lost a very good priest'.
The earth will tremble." 

• Denis Daniel: "He was indeed a man of vision and got exceptional success in all ventures. May his soul rest in peace!"

• Testimony from a close friend, College of Bishops: "It is with great sorrow that I received the sad news of the demise of Bishop Patrick D’Souza. He was a close and trusted friend of mine. He always encouraged and appreciated me, particularly when I was a junior bishop in 1990. He always appreciated any small little act on my part. He was gracious enough to reach out to me when he met me in different parts of the country. He even came to visit me when I was in the Diocese of Vasai. A few times he had invited me for programmes in his Diocese in Varanasi. But beyond personal equations, he was a great and creative visionary. He made precious contributions at the meetings of bishops in various forums particularly on the floors of CBCI and CCBI. He is credited with the launch of some very important initiatives and commissions of the Episcopal Conferences. Certainly he was a very important member of the College of Bishops and he made a mark on the Church in India. He will be long remembered for his creative contribution to the growth of the Church in the spirit of the II Vatican Council. He was a deeply committed, intellectual, gifted and brilliant person.
I thank and praise God for his ministry and his person. Bishop Patrick Paul D’ Souza will be long remembered. May his soul rest in peace."

• Fr Roque D'Costa, Varanasi: "Bishop Patrick, A great visionary of the Church has gone to receive his hard earned reward. May the good Lord grant him a worthy one. RIP."

Some days back, I called the sister of Bishop Patrick, Margaret Tauro, my mother-in-law, 79 years old, at Puttur (Bangalore), to share a few words on the departed soul of her brother Patrick, "Cony," she said, "from a very young age Patrick was a very brilliant boy, outstanding in studies and sports, kind, humble, forgiving, generous, straightforward, polite, not hurting, never complaining, gentle and loving and caring to everyone who met him. May be because to these divine inbuilt God given virtues, qualities, talents, God wanted to use him for his Glory in Northern India and therefore perhaps God sent our Parish Priest of Bendur Church, who came to our house with a clear message of vocation and therefore Patrick left to Ajmer at the age of 12. God's ways are marvellous." 

The other day I came across one comment in one of the north Indian periodicals which stated, " I still don't understand what's 'rest in peace' or 'eternal rest'. Jesus had said in John 11:25-26 "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?" I'm sure, the Bishop Patrick lived and believed, and right now, he is in Heaven, enjoying eternal life, knowing God, and doing His Will, up there and nothing has to do with May his soul rest in peace or eternal rest." 

Finally, all believers are "sanctified - i.e. made saints - through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). All of us do believe in this word of God yet some faith contend that saints do not live on this earth but only in Heaven. In other words, Saints are not made in this world but in Heaven. I too believe that through Baptism and Faith in Jesus Christ, we are saints/holy ones in God's sight. (2 Cor. 5:19) Although by faith in Jesus and baptism sainthood is RECEIVED but not ACHIEVED until we lead a life pleasing unto the Lord.  Our Rewards in Heaven directly correlate with our efforts on earth. Jesus clearly illustrates this concept in Matthew 25 with the Parable of the Talents. In this story, each servant is entrusted with a certain number of talents, each according to his ability. In the end, each is rewarded by the master on the basis of how he has invested the talents. In the same way, each of us will be rewarded on the basis of how we have advanced the kingdom of Heaven. Therefore, I believe whoever leads a saintly life by hearer and doer of faith in this world, will be rewarded in Heaven, Crown of Glory, Sainthood, Consecrated to God, one of them being Bishop Patrick Paul D'Souza.