Obituary of His Grace Emeritus Archbishop, Dr. Kagithapu Mariadas
His Grace, the Emeritus Archbishop, Dr. Kagithapu Mariadas JUD was born on 7th September, 1936, at Gnanapuram in Visakhapatnam District, Andhra Pradesh. He was baptized on 15th September on the Feast of Our Lady of Dolors and was given the name, Mariadas – which means “Servant of Mary”. He was the only child of his parents. He lost his father when he was just three years old. His pious mother Annamma and his maternal grandmother did all they could with the help of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy to introduce him to Christian piety.
He had his Primary schooling in St. Peter's School, his own hometown Gnanapuram. As he proved himself to be a brilliant student he was sent to St. Paul’s High School, Phirangipuram, in Guntur District for his Secondary Education in the year 1948 by the then Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. R. Joseph. When he passed 10th class he expressed his desire of joining the Seminary to his beloved mother. Painfully, yet wholeheartedly, his loving mother gave her consent to her only child.
He began his Priestly formation in the year 1952 when he joined St. Joseph's Mission Home, (Diocesan) Palai in Kerala to pursue studies in the Minor Seminary. After the Minor Seminary studies, he was sent for Philosophy studies to Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamallee, Tamil Nadu. When he completed his Philosophical studies he joined the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and entered the Novitiate in Poona on 5th June, 1958 and took the Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. He completed his Theological studies at the Papal Athenaeum in Poona under the Jesuit Fathers.
He was ordained a Priest on 10th June, 1961, by Bishop Ignatius Mummadi of Guntur at Gnanapuram. Indeed, it was a day of rejoicing and gladness for the faithful of Gnanapuram as they witnessed the ordination of the first Priest from the village.
Soon after his Ordination he went back to Poona and successfully completed his Master’s Degree in Theology with 'Magna cum Laude’ on March 1962. From there he came back to the Bishop's House Visakhapatnam and helped the Procurator for four months.
1962 to 1971 were crucial years of his life. From 1962-63 he was in Paris for a Diploma Course in Pastoral Theology. From 1963-1971 he stayed in Rome - and obtained his Licentiate in Pastoral Theology; studied Canon and Civil Law, and acquired a J.U.D. (Doctorate in Civil and Canon Law) with ‘Summa Cum Laude. Besides this he got a diploma, specializing in Law regarding the Religious at the Sacred Congregation for Religious. During this period, he spent his holidays doing pastoral work in France, Germany, and U.S.A. He made use of every opportunity that was offered to him and learnt the customs, culture and language of the places he visited. Slowly and steadily he grew up in wisdom and knowledge and fear of the Lord.
He lived his life as a true son of St. Francis de Sales. So much so, in 1965 and in 1968 he was elected one of the Delegates of the General Chapter of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales and attended the Chapters in Geneva Switzerland. He returned to India in 1972.
He was appointed Parish Priest of Bobbili, the biggest Parish in the Diocese of Visakhapatnam in 1972.
He was Professor in St. Peter's Seminary, Bangalore, from 1973-1977.
He was Rector of M.S.F.S., Scholasticate, 'Vinayalaya', Bangalore from 1974-1977.
He was elected as one of the four Assistants General of the M.S. F. S Congregation in 1975.
He was a visiting Professor at St. Peter's Theological Institute, Bangalore, from 1976 onwards.
On 19th December, 1974, Dr. K. Mariadas was appointed as the fourth Bishop of Guntur by His Holiness Pope Paul VI by the Papal Bull "Cum Haud Multo." On 24th February, 1977, the news of his appointment as the Bishop of Guntur was announced. His Episcopal Ordination took place on 5th May, 1977 in a grand manner at Gnanapuram - a most impressive and spectacular event that the Catholic Church at Visakhapatnam ever witnessed. On 31st July, 1977 he was installed as the fourth Bishop of Guntur at Phirangipuram.
God looked kindly on his humble servant and found him worthy of shepherding his flock of Visakhapatnam. Bishop K. Mariadas was appointed as the Bishop of Visakhapatnam on 10th September, 1982 by His Holiness John Paul II by the Papal Bull "Studiosi Dominum Jesum”.
The good news of his appointment was announced on 24th September, 1982. On 26th January, 1983, Bishop Kagitapu Mariadas took charge of the Diocese of Visakhapatnam as its seventh Pastor, succeeding the pioneer Bishop, Rt. Rev. Ignatius Gopu.
Bishop K. Mariadas was accepted by the people as a people’s Bishop and as a true shepherd, he always remained kind and compassionate to his flock. He was a man of great faith, with a lively piety and a strict disciplinarian in the practice of customs and traditions of the Catholic Church. Being a man of peace, tenacity and courage he withstood the challenging and demanding situations in the Diocese with ease and calm. He was an ardent devotee of Our Blessed Mother. He promoted Marian devotion among the faithful of Visakhapatnam with great enthusiasm.
His Grace has etched his name in the annals of the Church history with his immense contribution. During his Episcopal ministry he invited many Religious Congregations and Missionaries to the Diocese for the enrichment of the mission in the Local Church.
When Visakhapatnam was made Metropolitan Archdiocese on 16th October, 2001, he was appointed as the Archbishop. During his Episcopal service of 35 years, many Churches, Institutions and village Chapels were erected. He encouraged many spiritual programs in the parishes for the good of the faithful in the Diocese. St. Mary’s Centenary Educational Institutions at Gnanapuram stand tall as memoirs of his passion for wisdom and knowledge.
The late Archbishop can be called as the 'Visakhapatnam Ratzinger' because of his intellectual gifts. His wit and wisdom knew no bounds. One could enter into conversation with his Grace on any topic under the sky.
He remained a good pastor and a zealous missionary till the end. He was simple to the core and was a friend of all. With his pleasant smile, he used to make people feel at home. He was a polyglot and spoke confidently 13 languages. He took great care to promote Christian unity in the Diocese and held prayer meetings with the Christians of other denominations on important days.
His Grace also took great interest in the renewal of the clergy of Visakhapatnam. He was gentle, yet firm in dealing with his priests. He also took great interest in the welfare of the retired Priests. He undertook with much care the complete construction of the Jubilee Home in Visakhapatnam, which today stands tall facing the Bay of Bengal, having all the facilities for the infirm and retired clergy of the Archdiocese.
He retired on 3rd July, 2012. Archbishop Mariadas was residing at Jubilee Home for the last five years. He spent the evening of his life at the Jubilee Home spreading positive energy around him with his simple yet vibrant presence with a broad smile on his face. He never missed to impart a Latin blessing to his visitors.
On 25th December, Christmas night, he had a fall in the room and had a head injury with internal bleeding. For the last two months he was undergoing treatment in St. Joseph’s Hospital, Visakhapatnam. When there were all the signs of good recovery, unexpectedly, on 26th February, 2018, there was deterioration of pulse rate and fluctuating oxygen levels and at about 2.30 p.m. he breathed his last peacefully and serenely. May his soul may rest in peace!
His mortal remains were kept at Stella Maris, Maharanipeta and Gnanapuram, for the faithful to pay respect to his mortal remains and to offer prayers for his eternal repose. A good number of Bishops of TCBC, Archbishop of Nagpur, Bishop of Jagadalpur, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Hyderabad, Superiors General, Provincial Superiors and Superiors from various Congregations, a large number of Priests from within and outside the Diocese, concelebrated at his Funeral Mass. A number of Religious Sisters, Brothers from many Congregations and a large number of lay faithful participated in the funeral service at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Gnanapuram, on 28th February, 2018.
His clear voice of authority, his steady and consistent leadership, his dedication to Pastoral works, his advocacy for the poor and oppressed, his commitment to peace, and his personal devotion to the triune God are the rich legacy that he has left behind.
We believe that he has moved into the presence of our Lord and is advancing from glory to glory. He fought the good fight; he finished the race; he kept the faith. Now he, who longed for our Lord’s appearing, may receive the crown of righteousness.
The humble Pastor will be deeply missed by the thousands whose lives he touched in the service of humanity.
Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas, SFX
Secretary General, CBCI
N. B.: The Obituary has been put together with inputs from Archbishop’s House, Vishakapatnam