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Christians pray for Hindu 'godman'

Concern mounts over health of renowned spiritual leader Satya Sai Baba

Christians in southern India are among thousands praying for the recovery of world renowned Hindu spiritual figure and philanthropist Satya Sai Baba. Sai Baba, 84, fell ill with pneumonia on March 28 and was admitted to his own hospital, the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi, in Andhra Pradesh. The spiritual leader is considered by devotees as a “godman” miracle worker who is the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, a 19th century spiritual guru who blended Hindu and Muslim beliefs. Doctors yesterday said the spiritual leader was in stable condition. Thousands of devotees from all over the world flocked to Puttaparthi on hearing the news, forcing local authorities to cordon off the hospital after some followers allegedly tried to attack officials for not letting them see their leader. Yesterday was “Ugadi, Andhra Pradesh’s New Year’s Day,” but it was a low key affair out of respect for Sai Baba, said Father M. Selvaraj, who heads a Jesuit mission in Krishnapuram near Puttaparthi. Christians in the state prayed for Sai Baba’s speedy recovery during Sunday Mass on April 3, the priest said. Most of his Sunday Mass participants are Hindus and they started crying when they heard about Sai Baba’s illness, Father Selvaraj said. Bishop Moses D. Prakasam of Nellore said he has followed the news about Sai Baba and has prayed for him since he fell ill. “His service to humanity, particularly in the fields of health, education and drinking water is tremendous,” the prelate said. Thousands have benefited from the Hindu leader’s philanthropy such as free heart surgery and quality education, he said. Father M. Devadoss, another Jesuit priest working in the area, said his mission was among the beneficiaries of the Sai Water Scheme set up by Sai Baba. “I drink Sai water and it forces me to pray for his speedy recovery,” Father Devadoss said. Jesuit Father Sandanasamy, principal of a college in Hindupur, said hundreds of his students were planning to conduct special prayers for Sai Baba. IB13870.1648
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