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India: Bishop Emeritus George Mamalassery of Tura passes away at 92

Bishop Emeritus George Mamalassery of Tura

Bishop Emeritus George Mamalassery of Tura passed away on July 5, 2024, at 2:20 a.m. in Holy Cross Hospital, Tura, Meghalaya, northeast India, due to severe respiratory issues.

He had been receiving treatment for fluid accumulation in his lungs for the past few months. He served as the first bishop of the Diocese of Tura, Meghalaya, for 28 years (1979–2007).

Born on April 23, 1932, in Kalathoor, Kerala, in south India, Mamalassery was the youngest of three children to Kurian and Elizabeth Mamalassery.

Orphaned at 12, he joined Sacred Heart Seminary in Poonamallee for the Diocese of Madras-Mylapore, completing his studies from 1950 to 1960.

Driven by missionary zeal, he volunteered to serve in the Northeast. Bishop Louis Mathias ordained him on April 24, 1960.

The Archdiocese of Shillong-Guwahati sent Mamalassery to the Garo Hills, a remote, dangerous area in northeast India plagued by malaria and wildlife.

After serving as an assistant parish priest in Tura and Baghmara for a decade, he became the parish priest of Dalu in 1970. During the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, he provided shelter, food, and support to displaced people in his parish.

On February 8, 1979, at the age of 46, the Holy See appointed Fr. Mamalassery as the first Bishop of Tura, with his ordination following on March 18, 1979.

As bishop, he expanded 14 existing centers and established 23 new parishes, complete with churches, presbyteries, convents, dispensaries, hostels, and schools.

Recognizing the region's poor economic and educational standards, he developed a network of academic institutions, even in remote areas.

Bishop Mamalassery invited the Salesians and Jesuits to establish colleges in Tura and Williamnagar, respectively.

He set up 34 dispensaries across Garo Hills' five districts and founded the 150-bed Holy Cross Hospital in Tura in 1993. His construction initiatives earned him the nickname "Engineer Bishop."

He also prioritized healthcare education, establishing the Rino Simonetti School of Nursing in Tura. For differently-abled individuals, he invited the Montfort Brothers to create the Montfort Center for the Physically Challenged.

Bishop George was instrumental in establishing Bakdil, the diocesan social service center, now one of the Northeast's top-performing NGOs.

After retiring in 2007, Bishop George continued to serve the diocese from the priest's home. The Government of Meghalaya honored him with the Pa Togan Sangma award, and the University of Science and Technology, Meghalaya, conferred an honorary doctorate upon him in 2019 for his contributions to education, healthcare, and socio-economic development.

The Church in India remains deeply indebted to him for his missionary work in the Garo Hills and his foundational role in the Diocese of Tura.- With input from Stephen Alathara


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