Scholar Leftist Mundassery had died as a true Christian, claims nun

via VR Jayaraj | Thiruvananthapuram - Daily Pioneer published on October 2, 2011

Had Prof Joseph Mundassery, perhaps the greatest scholar Leftist Kerala has ever seen, died as a pious Christian despite being the architect of the controversial Education Reforms Bill that led to the historic Liberation Struggle of the Church and others and the fall of the world’s first democratically elected communist government?

The Marxists, who had termed a Catholic Bishop as a “disgusting creature” for saying CPI(M) MLA Mathai Chacko had died as a believer, may not like it but Sr Monica, a nun of Thrissur’s Lourdes Matha Convent, who was a close friend of Mundassery in his last days, says he had died after receiving all the rites a true Christian should get in this life.

Prof Mundassery’s faith or materialism has never been a discussion topic in Kerala, but observers say that the nun’s revelation is sure to spark a debate. “I don’t think Marxists here would want to portray Mundassery as an atheist but they are sure to view the revelation as part of a campaign against them,” said a CPI(M) theorist.

The nun writes in her article in Catholica Sabha, official organ of the Thrissur Archdiocese of the Catholic Church, that Mundassery died at his home in Thrissur on October 25, 1977 after prolonged illness but he had received the anointing of the sick, a Christian rite any Catholic should be given by a priest before death.

“Some political leaders arrived (at his home) after his death,” writes Sr Monica. “They placed a red shroud over his body. I asked them why they wanted to do it especially when he had died as a true Catholic. They told me that their party had asked them to do it. They also promised me to remove the shroud after some time,” the nun says.

Sr Monica, now 71, indicates that the professor had perhaps been repentant of losing the Church’s support due to his association with the communists and in the name of the Education Reforms Bill. She says that he once wrote a note for her saying, “I am a person who has been expelled from the Holy Church.”

The nun says that Mundassery’s family members had been under a lot of mental stress because of his so-called estrangement from the Church. She quotes Kathreena, Mundassery’s wife, as saying once, “Isn’t he being known as a communist?” But Sr Monica is sure that the professor had always wanted to help the Church.

According to the nun, Prof Mundassery used to participate in Holy Mass, for which a priest reached his home, at least once in a month in the last year of his life. He had also said his confession to a priest after several years during those days – at her loving insistence.

Prof Mundassery, who was elected to the Kerala Assembly in the 1957 with the support of the Communist Party, was not an active member of the organization. However, Sr Monica, who admits that she is not a woman who understands politics very much, says that she had always known “partymen will come to shroud him in a red cloth after his death”.

Mundassery was one of the towering literary personalities of Kerala and was also known as a great educationist. But his real fame came from politics as he is remembered as the education minister who masterminded the drafting of the controversial Education Reforms Bill of the first communist government headed by EMS Namboothiripad.

Marxist theoreticians in Kerala say that it is immaterial whether Mundassery died as a materialist or true believer because he is not remembered for his politics or religion but for his contribution towards universalizing education, which was till then considered the private property of some classes and religions, especially the Church.

“We don’t care whether the Church wants to claim Mundassery’s ownership,” said a senior CPI(M) leader based in Kochi when asked about the nun’s article. “But it has become a habit of the Church to describe great communists and fellow-travelers as staunch believers. What it shows is their urge for propaganda and not the weakness of materialism,” he said

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