Kerala church gets 2nd cardinal

TRIVANDRUM — The Church in Kerala got a rare honour when it got second Cardinal for the first time in its long history.

By (T K Devasia)

Published: Thu 25 Oct 2012, 9:04 PM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 1:25 PM

The new Cardinal is head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis. He was elevated by Vatican on Wednesday. The other Cardinal is Mar George Alencherry of the Syro Malabar Church.

Pope Benedict XIV made the declaration elevating 53-year-old Cleemis as Cardinal during the customary Wednesday’s Papal Audience at the St. Peter’s Square. The ordination will take place on November 24.

With the elevation of Cleemis, there will be seven cardinals in the country with four having rights to elect a new Pope. The total number of cardinals in the Catholic Church is now 211. Of this only 89 have rights to elect a Pope.

Cleemis is the first ever Cardinal of the Malankara Church, which was born out of the “reunion movement” in the last century that saw a section of the Orthodox community joining the Catholic fold by retaining its oriental traditions.

He is the fifth cardinal from Kerala and 12th from India.

The former cardinals from Kerala are Mar Joseph Parekkattil, Mar Antony Padiyara, Mar Varkey Vithayathil and Mar George Alanchery.

Alencherry was named cardinal in February this year following the demise of cardinal Vithayathil.

Cleemis, who is the fourth head of the Malankara church, is the youngest to be elevated as Cardinal from Kerala, where Christians constitute about 20 per cent of the population. Cleemis, who had gone to Rome to participate in the 13th international Synod of the Catholic bishops, was present when the Pope announced his elevation as Cardinal. Out of the 12 delegates from India, eight were from Kerala.

Speaking to a Malayalam TV channel from Vatican, Cleemis said he considered his elevation as a big recognition and honour for India in general and Kerala in particular.

“This demands greater dedication from me and the Malankara church to serve the church and the society,” he added. Cleemis said he will strive hard to maintain the unity of Kerala and work for its progress.

Born the fifth child of T.M. Mathew and Annamma at Mallappally in Pathanamthitta district in 1959, Cleemis was ordained as a priest in 1986 after his theological studies in Kerala and Pune.

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