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Bhutan

BHUTANESE KING AND GOVERNMENT MOURN DEATH OF FIRST CATHOLIC MISSIONER

Updated: November 13, 1995 05:00 PM GMT
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The king of Bhutan, his mother, ministers and government officials paid homage to the late Jesuit Father William Mackey, the first Catholic missioner in Bhutan, who died Oct. 18 at age 80.

Father Cherian Padiyara said Father Mackey died in a hospital in Thimphu, Bhutan´s capital, after an infected gum led to blood poisoning.

"He never cared for his health despite medical advice and he also suffered kidney failure at the end," the Darjeeling Jesuit provincial added.

King Jigme Singye Wangchuck and retinue joined the Canadian-born missioner´s wake at his Thimphu residence and offered a "khadas" (Tibetan scarf) as a mark of respect for the missioner, whose service in the Buddhist kingdom won him Bhutanese citizenship and the honorific title "son of Bhutan."

The queen mother accompanied the priest´s body half way to Puntsoling, a border town, on its way to Darjeeling, northeastern India, for burial.

Priests, nuns and many Christians and non-Christians attended the Oct. 20 funeral at which the Bhutanese government was represented by its environment minister, education secretary and several officials.

Father Mackey was adviser to Bhutan´s government education ministry.

The late missioner went to Bhutan in 1963, early in the reign of King Wangchuck, to help build the country´s educational system. "He firmly established the educational set-up for Bhutan," according to Father Padiyara.

The provincial said Father Mackey "endeared himself" to the Bhutanese people "with his honest and sincere service and won the royal family´s confidence."

Father Mackey also looked after some 60 Catholics in Thimphu. "He witnessed Christ in Bhutan through his dedicated service," Father Padiyara added.

Bhutan is part of Darjeeling diocese and Father Mackey was the only Catholic missioner allowed to stay in the Buddhist kingdom, which forbids propagation of any other religion.

Father Thomas D´Souza, Darjeeling administrator, said Father Mackey´s death is a great loss to the diocese. The late Jesuit arrived in India in 1947 and taught in schools in Darjeeling before his Bhutan assignment.

In Bhutan, he was a teacher, principal, chief inspector of schools and eventually an educational adviser to the government. He was the only foreign missioner to become a Bhutanese citizen.

On the contrary, after Father Mackey went to Bhutan, several priests and nuns also went and worked in government schools. But they had to return to Darjeeling since the government did not approve of some of their activities.

END

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