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Leprosy patients lose their 'messiah'

Father Christudas dies following battle with heart problems, pneumonia at age 74

  • Rita Joseph, New Delhi and Malini Manjaly, Patna
  • India
  • July 28, 2011
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A priest, lauded as the ''messiah of leprosy sufferers'' in India, passed away yesterday in a hospital in Sunderpur, in Bihar state.

Father Christudas, 74, who had been suffering from heart problems, died two weeks after falling into a coma after contracting pneumonia.

Widely renowned for his compassion, Father Christudas was fondly called “Baba” by thousands of leprosy patients he helped cure in the eastern Indian state.

Born in Edamavuku, a village in Kerala state’s Kottayam district in 1937, he spent his life seeking to free society of the disfiguring disease and worked tirelessly for it.

After serving as a director at Mother Teresa's leprosy center in Titagarh near Calcutta in the 1970’s, the priest moved to Bihar, which then had the highest number of leprosy patients in India.

In 1981, Father Christudas established the Little Flower Leprosy Hospital in a mud hut in Sunderpur near Raxaul, close to the border with Nepal.

Today it has grown into a large hospital treating thousands of leprosy patients.

A national weekly which named him its “Man of the Year” in 2009, described him as “a one-man army who gave 50,000 people and their families a fresh start in life.”

The reintegration of leprosy patients and their families into mainstream society was “the sole purpose of my work,” he once said.

In the course of his great mission, he found he too had fallen victim to the disease after discovering a leprous patch on his ankle, but he got it cured.

Father Christudas used to say that he looked forward to a time when his hospital would run out of patients.

“Then I will know that my life has been a worthy one,” he said.

His funeral was held today.

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