Bishop Vinod Peter, a leading Indian clergyman and president of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), died in a road accident in the Indian state of Rajasthan on December 6, along with a local church leader, Bishop Jerald Andrews.

Sixty-one-year-old Bishop Peter, who as moderator of the Church of North India (CNI) was on an official visit to the state, was killed when the driver of the van in which he was travelling with the CNI's Bishop Andrews, of Rajasthan, lost control of the vehicle and hit a tree near the roadside. Both bishops died instantly, while the driver died the following morning, officers at Bishop Peter's diocesan office in Nagpur, central India, told ENI.

Bishop of Nagpur since 1984, Bishop Peter was elected moderator of the synod of the CNI, one of India's leading churches, in October 1998. In March this year he was elected by a unanimous vote as president of the NCCI, an influential forum of 29 Orthodox and Protestant churches.

Bishop Peter's wife Rachael is bedridden following a severe accident a few weeks ago. He also leaves behind a son.

Sixty-year-old Jerald Andrews of Rajasthan, who also died in the accident, was consecrated bishop in 1993 and leaves behind his wife and two daughters.

The death of Bishop Peter, the country's senior ecumenical official, is an especially severe blow to Indian churches as it follows by only six months the death, also in a car accident, in Poland, of Archbishop Alan Basil de Lastic of Delhi, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI).

"This is a great shock to the entire Christian community in India," NCCI's senior vice president Mar Geevarghese Coorilos, of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, said of Bishop Peter's death. Speaking to ENI from ...

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