Catholic media in India mourns revolutionary editor’s death

Feature and Cover Catholic media in India mourns revolutionary editor’s death

New Delhi, March 28, 2024:Catholic communicators in India have mourned the death of James Kottoor, a former editor of the Chennai-based New Leader publication and a prolific writer who helped spread the Vatican II reforms in India.

Kottoor died March 27 in Kochi, Kerala, where he was spending his retired life. He was 89. He is survived by his wife Agnes and three daughters who are nurses settled in the United States, and a son who is a doctor.

He was born on August 18, 1934, in Kottayam, Kerala. He edited The New Leader during 1967-1975.

He was also the editor-in-chief of the Church Citizens’ Voice, a portal. He regularly contributed to Matters India until a few years ago.

A former priest of Madras-Mylapore, he obtained a doctorate in theology from Rome’s Pontifical Urban University and Bachelors in Journalism, at Marquette University in the US.

Father D Amudhan, a former president of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA), expressed sadness over Kottoor’s death. “He was the editor of the New Leader when I met him in 1973. Under his editorship the New Leader was a widely read and well liked Catholic weekly,” Father Amudhan told Matters India March 28.

According to the 80-year-old priest of Thanjavur diocese, Kottoor’s “constructive criticism and bold proposals were an eye opener in the Indian church. He was one of the few who openly and positively contributed for the reforms of the Vatican Council to spread in the country.”

Salesian Father C M Paul, a former president of the Signis India, says Kottoor was known and respected for his progressive stance and critical analysis of societal and political matters from a Catholic perspective. “He was my inspiration when I took charge as the editor of the Herald weekly of Calcutta in 1989,” Father Paul told Matters India.

Father Paul too agrees that Kottoor, during his tenure as editor, was known for his bold and outspoken editorial style, often addressing controversial topics such as corruption, social justice, gender equality and religious reform within the Catholic Church.

He gained recognition for his advocacy for the rights of marginalized communities and his efforts to promote dialogue and reform within the Church hierarchy, the Salesian priest added.

Kottoor’s writings, Father Paul added, often reflected his deep concern for the poor, and he used his platform to raise awareness about issues such as poverty, caste discrimination, and human rights abuses.

“He was also known for his criticism of religious fundamentalism and his calls for greater accountability and transparency within religious institutions,” he added.

ICPA’s current president Ignatius Gonsalves, mourning Kottoor’s death, hailed the veteran journalist who clamoured for reform in the Church, especially among his own community of Kananites.

This former priest “was fiercely committed to the Church and the Gospel values. Until recently he was active with his website called “Church Citizens Voice.” survived by his and their four children.

Kottoor encouraged the formation of an association of former priests and nuns and addressed its conference at Kochi on February 28, 2015.

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