Bishop Linus Nirmal Gomes (center), former bishop of Baruipur in West Bengal and a pioneering member of the Jesuit mission to Bangladesh, died on Feb. 27. (Photo supplied)
Catholics are mourning a prominent Bangladesh-born Jesuit bishop who made outstanding contributions as a church leader in India and as a pioneering member of the Jesuit mission to Bangladesh.
Bishop Linus Nirmal Gomes, former bishop of Baruipur in West Bengal and the most senior bishop in India, died at the Jesuit Community at St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata on Feb. 27. He marked his 100th birthday on Sept. 7 last year.
He led Bauripur Diocese (1977-95) as its first bishop and after retirement joined the Jesuit mission in Bangladesh as part of a delegation of Jesuits’ Kolkata Province from 1997 to 2014.
He returned to St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, state capital of West Bengal, in 2014 after he suffered an accident.
Church leaders and laypeople paid tribute to Bishop Gomes as news of his death spread. Many wrote and posted images on social media including Facebook and WhatsApp.
Father Joyanto S. Gomes, president of Bangladesh Diocesan Priests’ Fraternity, the federation of diocesan priests, hailed Bishop Gomes as a great church leader whose life was a great model for all.
“As a religious leader, he was an amazingly amicable, prayerful and holy person. He was a man with excellent patience and admired for soft-spoken but eloquent speeches. He retired long ago but as long as he was in Bangladesh, he was never in retirement. He was readily available for anyone any time — from retreats, seminars, Masses to funeral services — always. He was not in any specific assignment, but he opened hearts for all,” Father Gomes told UCA News.
Father Joseph Mistry, superior of the Jesuit mission in Bangladesh, said Bishop Gomes led an exemplary life of spirituality, prayerfulness and discipline
“He kept his vows of obedience, sanctity and poverty to the letter. He was very loyal to the Church, obedient to the superior and he helped people with an open heart. He would never hurt anyone, even if he was hurt for some reason. He was a man of tolerance. Although he was old, he was young and enterprising,” Father Mistry told UCA News.
Nirmol Rozario, president of Bangladesh Christian Association, said Bishop Gomes was a great idol for the Church and society, so the Church can think about promoting him as a saint in future.
“Bishop Linus Nirmal Gomes possessed all the qualities of a great religious leader. He was not only a towering church leader but a humble and spiritual person who had shown great respect for people. He visited patients at home and offered pastoral services to hostel students whenever he had time. He dedicated his entire life to the welfare of people,” Rozario told UCA News.
A simple, extraordinary life
Linus Nirmal Gomes was born on Sept. 7, 1921, in Baliadior village in St. Francis Xavier Parish of Golla in Dhaka of East Bengal (now Bangladesh) in British India.
From 1930 to 1939, he studied at Holy Cross High School in Bandura. Three of the Catholic students who passed matriculation in 1940 became priests — T.A. Ganguly, the first Bengali archbishop of Dhaka, diocesan priest Joseph Dutta, and himself. He went on to study at renowned St. Xavier’s College in Kolkata, enrolled in the science department and stayed in the college hostel.
At St. Xavier’s College, he met Bangladesh-born Jesuit priest Peter Gomes, a teacher at the college who inspired him to become a priest.
He joined the Jesuit Novitiate in 1942. He studied philosophy from 1945-48, graduated in Bengali literature in 1949 and completed theology studies from 1952-54. He was ordained a Jesuit priest on Nov. 21, 1954.
In 1957, Father Gomes was assigned to St. Teresa’s Parish in Moulali, Kolkata, becoming its parish priest 10 years later. He was also headmaster of St. Peter’s High School of Kolkata.
Pope Paul VI appointed him the first bishop of newly created Baruipur Diocese on May 30, 1977, where he served for 18 years.
Later, as emeritus bishop, he was sent to Dhaka to serve the Jesuit mission from 1997 to 2014. He spent his last seven years at St. Xavier’s College Jesuit community in Kolkata.
Bishop Gomes was due to be buried following funeral rites at the Bishop's House in Baruipur of West Bengal on March 1.
Oblate Archbishop Bejoy D’Cruze of Dhaka was to preside over a special requiem Mass for Bishop Gomes at Holy Rosary Church in central Dhaka.