The body of Archbishop Joseph Chennoth, the Vatican's apostolic nuncio to Japan, was laid to rest in his native parish in southern India on Sept. 22, two weeks after he died of a cardiac arrest.
The 76-year-old prelate had been receiving medical treatment and resting for some time after suffering a stroke. He died in Tokyo on Sept. 7.
He wished to be buried in his native parish, said Bishop Jacob Manathodath of Palghat, who joined the funeral service.
His body was flown into Kochi, Kerala's commercial capital, on Sept. 21 and kept in the chapel of a hospital run by the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly to allow the public to pay their respects.
"The next day, early morning, the archbishop's body was taken to his family for a short while before being brought to his parish of St. Thomas Catholic Church of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese," said Father Alex Onampally, secretary of the Syro-Malabar Media Commission.
Archbishop Chennoth, who belonged to the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church, was apostolic nuncio to Japan from August 2011 until his death.
Cardinal George Alencherry, head of the Kerala-based Syro-Malabar Church, led the funeral service along with Archbishop Antony Kariyil, vicar administrator of Ernakulam-Angamaly.
Archbishop Joseph Perumthottam of neighboring Changanacherry also attended the service.
The funeral service and burial were conducted strictly complying with Covid-19 protocols, Father Onampally told UCA News.
Condolence messages from Kerala's Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other political leaders were read out after the funeral service.
Kerala police gave the guard of honor given to state dignitaries.
Archbishop Chennoth, born in 1943, went to Rome for theology studies and was ordained a priest in 1969 in Austria. He returned to Rome to do a doctorate in canon law.
He joined the Holy See's diplomatic service in 1977 and worked in the Pontifical Missions in Cameroon, Turkey and Iran. He also worked in the Vatican's Secretariat of State and was the Vatican's charge d'affaires to Taiwan from 1995 to 1999.
He was named nuncio to the Central African Republic and Chad in 1999, and in 2005 he was moved to Tanzania as nuncio. Pope Benedict XVI appointed him nuncio to Japan on Aug. 15, 2011.
He was a priest for 51 years and a bishop for 20 years.