Outspoken Mannar Bishop Rayappu Joseph has passed away. He was 80-years-old at the time of his death.
Bishop Rayappu completes 25 years in the diocese today.
Bishop Rayappu Joseph was born on April 16, 1940 in Delft Island, Jaffna. He did his school studies at Deflt Roman Catholic School, Murungan Maha Vidyalaya and Jaffna St. Patricks College. He was ordained a priest on Dec. 13, 1967, and appointed Bishop of Mannar on July 6, 1992 by Pope John Paul II.
Bishop Rayappu obtained a doctorate in Canon law at the Pontifical Urban University, Rome.
He was later appointed Professor at St Xavier’s Seminary Jaffna. He is the Vice President of the Bishops’ Conference in Sri Lanka and chairman for the Catholic National Commission for Laity.
He is fluent in Italian, German and English. Bishop Rayappu worked in close collaboration with the Vatican, international Caritas agencies and countries of the European Union to promote peace in Sri Lanka.
The former Bishop was very open on his views during the war against the LTTE. He was mostly seen as being a critic of the military’s conduct during the war. He dedicated himself to alleviate the suffering of the victims of the war.
“I am called a controversial Bishop because there are ‘controversial’ issues taking place and when I speak on those issues I turned out to be ‘controversial’. If I speak out, I am an ‘outspoken Bishop’. If I care for the poor and fight for justice, I am an anti Sri Lankan, a LTTE or a separatist. So, what am I to do? I care less about these names, but I will keep voicing against injustice and fight against human rights violations”, He said in an interview a few years ago.
He often visited prisoners in prisons and spoke out for their release. He had personal contacts with them. He stood up for the missing and worked tirelessly to find them or uncover their story.
He also made efforts to build houses for those who had lost their homes due to the war.
Bishop Rayappu did a lot of helping for those who were disabled by the war. He started a home in Vavuniya for orphans who lost their parents due to the war and tsunami. He also started a home for male children in Mannar.
At the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) session held in Mannar in January 2011, the Bishop, along with other priests, presented a written report on the problems of the people. He referred to a number of issues that need to be addressed immediately, such as missing persons, detained LTTE suspects, extrajudicial killings, rehabilitation of war victims and the need for a political solution. What happened to the 146,679 people in the Vanni? He asked the question and demanded the government to find their whereabouts.