Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath, the Syro-Malankara Catholic bishop in India who served the poor on the streets of his eparchy since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, died Aug. 26, four months after his admission to the hospital. He was 60.
Aerath, who headed the Eparchy of St. John Chrysostom of Gurgaon, contracted COVID-19 earlier this year. He was taken to Holy Family Hospital in New Delhi April 16 and was immediately put on a ventilator. He was transferred to Fortis Hospital in Delhi the first week of August for more intensive treatment.
“It is a great loss for the Malankara Catholic Church in India,” said M.L. Thomas, director of Catholic Near East Welfare Association in India. “He was one of our loving companions in our mission. I am specially moved in my heart, as I traveled and spent lots of time with him in most of our project locations in North India, and I found him to be a real missionary.”
Thomas said daily text message updates earlier this week on the status of the bishop’s health indicated his vitals seemed stable with medication, but that his liver was weak, and he continued to require ventilator support and dialysis.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in India in March 2020, Aerath had led the distribution of food and hygiene kits among the poor affected by COVID-19, said Thomas, who remarked on the bishop’s “humanly nature, love for the poor and for the mission of the church.”
He recalled a conversation with the bishop as the prelate was seeking support for those affected by the virus.
“This is my God-given duty — that I radiate the love of the Lord to these people,” the bishop told Thomas. “God has called me to give his love and care because I see nobody out there to help them. So, how can I sit at home?”
Jacob Barnabas was born Dec. 3, 1960. He was ordained a priest Oct. 2, 1986, and a bishop March 10, 2007. He was enthroned as the bishop of Gurgaon May 1, 2015.
Ieraci is assistant editor of ONE magazine.