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Vicente Ferrer

Death of Vicente Ferrer

June 19, 2009
Madrid, Spain

Spanish humanist who worked with India's poor dies

Obituary

By DANIEL WOOLLS, Associated Press Writer

MADRID -- Vicente Ferrer, a revered Spanish humanist who founded a vast network of schools, clinics and other programs to help destitute people in India, died Friday. He was 89.

Ferrer's foundation says the former Jesuit died in Anantapur, the Indian city where he had lived for the past 40 years.

Ferrer suffered a blood clot on the brain in March, had been ill ever since and died of cardio-respiratory failure, the Fundacion Vicente Ferrer.

Ferrer and his Rural Development Trust operated in the southeastern Indian state of Andrah Pradesh, and he was seen as practically a messiah by poor people and Dalits, or "untouchables," in the underdeveloped, drought-prone Antantapur district.

The trust ran development projects that focused on education, housing, women, health, agriculture and people with disabilities. The network is now spread over nearly 2,300 towns and benefits 2.5 million people of the Dalit community and other people at the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system, the foundation said.

"He was a saintly figure who adopted the most backward part of the state for welfare and development work. He will be remembered forever by the people of Anantapur," said N.K. Singh, the Anantapur district police chief.

T. Chiranjeevulu, head of the district administration, said "his work benefited not less than 700,000 families over the last 50 years."

Ferrer was also a living legend in his native Spain. Madrid and other cities have streets named after him, and this year the government gave Ferrer one of its highest honors, the Grand Cross of Civil Merit.

He was known popularly as San Vicente Ferrer, "San" meaning saint.

"I am convinced that not a single good action is lost in this world. Some place it will remain forever," Ferrer once said, according to the foundation's Web site.

Ferrer is survived by three children and British-born widow Anne Ferrer, and will be buried Monday in Anantapur in the courtyard of a hospital his foundation built.

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AP correspondent Omer Farooq contributed to this report from Hyderabad, India.