Christians in India have expressed deep sorrow at the passing away of a popular Hindu spiritual leader and philanthropist Sathya Sai Baba . “We express our deepest condolences to all his followers. It is a big loss,” said Father Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India. The 85-year-old spiritual leader was undergoing treatment at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, the hospital he founded, when he died on Easter Sunday. He was suffering from pneumonia that led to a multiple organ failure. [caption id="attachment_13974" align="aligncenter" width="465" caption="Men line up to pay their last respects to a man many thought to be a god"]
[/caption] Sai Baba built the hospital in Puttaparthi in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the place from where he ran his spiritual ministry. “We are deeply grieved by the passing away of the Sathya Sai Baba and share the loss felt by his followers,” said John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council. Dayal recalled the “tremendous” amount of social work done by the leader by building hospitals and educational institutions. Bishop Moses D. Prakasam of Nellore expressed the hope that that the philanthropist’s work would continue even after his demise. Thousands of people have benefited from the Hindu leader’s initiative of providing free heart surgery, quality education, drinking water and other welfare programs. Jesuit Father M. Devadoss said the spiritual leader followed the message of “love all and serve all” and it is fulfilled even in his death on Easter Sunday. Jesuit Father E. Selvaraj, parish priest in Hindupur, said his parishioners offered special prayers for Sathya Sai Baba during Mass on Easter Sunday. The spiritual leader claimed to be the reincarnation of a former holy man Sai Baba of Shirdi who died in 1918. His last rites will be performed tomorrow in Puttaparthi.