Mourners Say Late Archbishop´s Legacy Was His Relationship With People Of Different Backgrounds

2006-04-13 00:00:00

People of different faiths and social backgrounds mourned the death of the late Archbishop Longinus da Cunha of Ende, saying that he was an exemplary person and Church leader.

"Archbishop Longinus was a cheerful person. He maintained good relations with many people from different backgrounds," Divine Word Bishop Girulfus Kherubim Pareira of Weetebula said in a eulogy he delivered after presiding at the April 10 funeral Mass.

Protestant and Muslim religious leaders, government officials and thousands of Catholics and people of other religions attended the Mass held at Christ the King Cathedral in Ende, where the prelate´s body was laid. The town is on predominantly Catholic Flores Island, 1,630 kilometers east of Jakarta. Flores is part of East Nusa Tenggara province.

East Nusa Tenggara Governor Piet Alexander Tallo, a Protestant, said in his eulogy that Archbishop da Cunha´s death is a loss for the government, "because during his life the late archbishop always did his best to humanize the people of the province by caring for the poor and simple people."

He said that he believed that not only Catholics but all people in the local society lost a spiritual leader, "because he has shown honest friendship and true brotherhood."

Father Johan Towa Eo of St. Joseph Church in Maumere, part of Ende archdiocese until the creation of Maumere diocese in December, told participants of the April 6 Mass that Archbishop da Cunha always encouraged his priests to pay attention to their parishioners. "Love them as you love yourselves. Ask them their experience, their difficulties," he recalled as the late prelate´s frequent advice.

Archbishop da Cunha, 60, died April 6 of heart failure at Abdi Waluyo Hospital in Jakarta after experiencing heart problems at the guesthouse run by the Bishops´ Conference of Indonesia (KWI, Indonesian acronym) in the capital. He had been staying at the guesthouse since returning April 1 from Rome, against the advice of doctors there, who said he had not fully recovered from heart surgery in February after developing heart trouble on a visit.

The late archbishop was KWI vice chairman from 1997 to 2003. From then until his death, he was chairman of KWI´s Commission for Pastoral Service to Migrants and Itinerants.

For the funeral Mass, a Timor Evangelical Messiah Church (GMIT, Indonesian acronym) choir sang during the Offertory and Communion.

Archbishop Ignatius Suharyo, KWI secretary, remembered the late archbishop as a churchman with an open heart and clear mind. "On various occasions in KWI meetings, the archbishop was entrusted to lead sessions that dealt with difficult issues, and he did it very well," the Semarang archbishop said. Bishop-elect Vincentius Sensi of Maumere eulogized the late prelate for his humility. "I know that Archbishop Longinus had many talents and ... opportunities to be famous, but the archbishop preferred to be a simple man," he said. During Easter and Christmas, he recalled, the late archbishop would celebrate Mass with people in isolated parishes.

Divine Word Father Yosef Seran, who was appointed by the archdiocesan consultors as administrator of Ende archdiocese following the archbishop´s death, said he too was impressed by the prelate´s simplicity as well as his strong will to develop the archdiocese. "I will follow his spirit and determination to make the archdiocese a strong Church," said the Timorese priest, who served as vicar general of Ende for the past 10 years.

After the April 10 Mass, thousands of people accompanied the bishop´s body to the yard of St. Mary the Immaculate Church beside the Ende archbishop´s residence in Ndona, three kilometers east of Ende. The late archbishop is the first to be buried in the cemetery he created for archdiocesan clergy.

In Jakarta on April 6, about 3,000 Catholics celebrated a requiem Mass in Jakarta´s cathedral presided over by Jesuit Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja of Jakarta, the current KWI president. On behalf of the bishops´ conference, the cardinal, who was accompanied by about 10 other prelates and 30 priests, thanked the late archbishop for his work for the Church.

On behalf of the archbishop´s family, Carmelite Father Bosco da Cunha thanked all present for their respect and love for his older brother.

Reverend Y.R. Tarully, head of GMIT Ende, told UCA News April 6 that Archbishop da Cunha tried to build long-lasting fellowship among people. "He was a senior religious leader, teacher and father of all believers in Ende. He respected the small community of Protestants here. He was close to all religious leaders. He was an exemplary figure because of his humility," the Protestant leader said.

"Local Muslims also lost an exemplary leader," Abdul Wahad Daud, Indonesian Ulema (Islamic scholars) Council head for Ende, told UCA News April 6. "The simple, honest and fatherly figure always stressed peace," Daud said.

Muchtar Samsudin, a native of Ende, had similar praise. "I´m a Muslim, but I knew the late archbishop well. He was a very good man. He often visited Muslim families," the motorcycle taxi driver told UCA News. He also said the late archbishop was friendly to ordinary people and "always waved to people in the street when he passed them by."

Archbishop da Cunha was born July 30, 1945, in Boawae village of Ngada district, within the Ende archdiocesan territory. He was ordained a priest for the archdiocese on July 10, 1973. Following his appointment to head the archdiocese on April 6, 1996, he was ordained archbishop three months later, on July 10. He was the first diocesan priest to head the archdiocese, which had been led by Divine Word prelates since its inception as an apostolic prefecture in 1913.


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