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Indonesia's Bishop Julianus Sunarka dies at 79

Jesuit prelate will be remembered for 'befriending followers of all beliefs'

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Indonesia's Bishop Julianus Sunarka dies at 79

Bishop Julianus Kema Sunarka of Purwokerto has died at the age of 79. (Photo courtesy of Robertus Sutriyono)

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Jesuit Bishop Julianus Kema Sunarka of Purwokerto died on June 26 at the age of 79.

The bishop emeritus died in Semarang, capital of Central Java province, after a short illness.

A concelebrated requiem Mass led by Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo of Jakarta was livestreamed on YouTube from St. Stanislaus Kotska Church in Girisonta on June 27, followed by a burial service led by Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko of Semarang in the Catholic cemetery of Our Lady Queen of Peace, also in Girisonta.

In a homily during the concelebrated requiem Mass, Jesuit Father Petrus Sunu Hardiyanta described Bishop Sunarka as “a great pastor.”

“He loved Catholics served by Purwokerto Diocese and paid much attention to the formation and education of priests and seminarians in the diocese. His vision was presenting a loving God among Catholics together with all priests,” he said.

“As a bishop, he not only served Catholics but also befriended followers of all beliefs."

Bishop Sunarka was born on Dec. 25, 1941, in Sendang Mulya, a village in Yogyakarta province’s Sleman district.

He entered the Jesuit novitiate on Sept. 8, 1963, and was ordained a priest on Dec. 3, 1975. His episcopal ordination was on Sept. 8, 2000.

Having served as a parish priest in Central Java from 1975 to 1977, he became financial administrator of Semarang Archdiocese from 1977 to 1985.

He also served as rector of St. Paul Major Seminary in Kentungan, Yogyakarta, for several years before also serving as financial administrator of the Indonesian Province of the Society of Jesus and as chairman of the Indonesian bishops’ Commission for the Laity.

He resigned as a bishop on Dec. 29, 2016, after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. In 2017, he moved to the Emaus Girisonta retirement home.

Speaking to UCA News on June 28, Bishop Christophorus Tri Harsono, who succeeded Bishop Sunarka, called him “a merciful bishop.”

“He was amazing. He was a bishop who sought to look after priests serving in his diocese and elsewhere,” the prelate said.

“He often made impromptu visits and forged ties with people from different religions. He was more like a servant than a leader.”

Robertus Sutriyono, a Catholic layman who wrote a book on Bishop Sunarka in 2015, said he would always remember his spontaneous generosity.

“He once returned from a short trip to Jakarta where he had got new clothes. Upon arriving back at his office, he gave them quite out of the blue to the trishaw driver who had picked him up at the railway station,” he said. 

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