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Dutch-born culturalist priest dies at 78 in Indonesia

Father Leonardus Egidius Joosten Ginting Suka will be remembered as a guardian of local tribal heritage

Dutch-born culturalist priest dies at 78 in Indonesia

A requiem Mass is held at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Brastagi of Karo district in North Sumatra province for Father Leonardus Egidius Joosten Ginting Suka, who died on Feb. 28. (Photo courtesy of Altur Manullang)

Dutch-born Capuchin priest Father Leonardus Egidius Joosten Ginting Suka, widely recognized in Indonesia as a culturalist and a writer, has died at the age of 78.

The retired priest, who had lived in North Sumatra province since 1971, died on Feb. 28 in the provincial capital Medan from acute lung disease after having appeared to have recovered from Covid-19.

Father Joosten saw Indonesia’s cultural diversity as something extraordinary and chose to serve as a missionary in North Sumatra because of his admiration for the region’s cultural richness. He became an Indonesian citizen in 1994.

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In August 2015, the priest received the Rancage Literary Award, a prestigious prize initiated by Ajip Rosidi, an influential author from West Java, for promoting local culture.

He was also recognized by the Education and Culture Ministry in 2018 for helping protect the heritage of both the Batak Toba and Batak Karo tribal groups, which included helping to establish museums to showcase their culture.

He also wrote at least 23 books on tribal culture including a Batak Toba-Indonesian dictionary.

Speaking to UCA News, Father Liberius Sihombing from St. Francis of Assisi Church in Karo district said local culture and literature were in the late priest’s blood.

“He collected antiques from everywhere, including from the Netherlands. All were donated to museums,” he said.

He was a humble priest who “always saw things from a positive perspective,” he said.

Father Joosten’s body is to be taken to Sinaksak, a village near the city of Pematangsiantar city in North Sumatra, for a funeral Mass and burial.

Capuchin Father Salestinus Manalu, provincial of the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin in Medan province, led a requiem Mass on March 1 at St. Francis of Assisi Church.

Capuchin Archbishop Kornelius Sipayung of Medan will lead the funeral Mass on March 2.

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