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Press Release on the Sad Demise of Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Aug. 17, 2018


The Catholic Bishops’ Conference is deeply saddened by the passing away of our beloved former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In his death, India has lost one of its tallest leaders and the world bids good bye to one of its greatest Statesmen. The Christian Community has lost a friend who was attentive to its needs and gave a patient hearing to its concerns.

We will remember him as a great orator who charmed the Indian public for decades with a wonderful mixture of poetry and prose, of quotes and shayris, delivered with humour, wit and a well-modulated voice. What marked him out was his graceful dealings with all. He will be remembered as a person who cultivated warm human relationships cutting across religious, political or regional divides.

The nation will remember him as a leader who yearned for a country where everyone lived in peace and harmony. I recall the words he spoke in his last Independence Day Speech as Prime minister, “India is a multi-religious nation. It is against both its nature and culture to practice discrimination or to do injustice to anybody on the grounds of faith. We should always care for the minorities and be attentive towards their welfare.”

I met our late Prime Minister on several occasions. Every meeting was a delight because of the warmth of his person, his sharp intellect and his passion for the country. He wanted an India where no was one was excluded, no one suffered want, and everyone enjoyed the benefits of progress. In my various meetings with the great man, I always had the feeling of being in the presence of a gracious gentlemen full of warmth, most reasonable in our discussions, and always eager to find a way forward.  

I remember with joy and nostalgia the meeting between Mr. Vajpayjee and Pope St. John Paul II during the Holy Father’s visit to India in 1999. He thanked the Pope for being in India on the happy occasion of Deepavali, the festival of lights which signifies the victory of good over evil. He observed that perhaps the papal visit added more light to the festival.

The Catholic Church also remembers with affection the very special admiration Mr. Vajpayee had for St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Mr Vajpayee said about the Saintly mother: “At a time when humankind is being increasingly driven by selfish motives, she gave selflessly to those whom society has forsaken and forgotten. In the age of cynicism she was a symbol of understanding faith.”

We mourn the demise of a leader who could dream for India with these words: "I have a vision of India: an India free of hunger and fear, an India free of illiteracy and want. I dream of an India that is prosperous, strong and caring. An India, that regains a place of honour in the comity of great nations," We thank God for sending among us such a great soul, a gentleman to the core, a kind hearted person in word and action, one who had friends and admirers across the political and ideological spectrum. May God grant him Eternal Rest.


August 17, 2018

+Cardinal Oswald Gracias
President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India

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