Thiruvananthapuram: The church in Kerala got a surprise boost when it got a second cardinal, which also led to the unprecedented situation of the state having two cardinals at the same time. The surprise announcement of the head of the Syro-Malankara church, Catholicos Baselios Mar Cleemis, being elevated as cardinal was made by the Pope, Benedict XVI in the Vatican.
The announcement means Kerala now has two cardinals, the other being Mar George Alanchery of the Syro-Malabar church, who was made cardinal earlier this year. Mar Cleemis is the fifth cardinal from Kerala, and the first cardinal for the Syro-Malankara church. At 53 years, Mar Cleemis is also among the youngest cardinals in the universal Catholic church. He is also the 12th cardinal from India.
“I see it as a great honour and recognition for India and Kerala. It also means that the universal Catholic church requires great commitment from the Malankara church. It is a pointer to the apostolic role of the Syro-Malankara church”, Mar Cleemis told a local television channel shortly after the announcement of his elevation as cardinal was made in the Vatican.
The new cardinal, an alumnus of St Berchmans college, Changanacherry and a former vicar in Thiruvalla, said the Catholic church’s decision to raise him to a cardinal, making it two cardinals at the same time from Kerala, was also reflective of the Catholic church taking notice of the service of Keralites around the world for the universal church.
The former cardinals from Kerala are Mar Joseph Parekkattil, Mar Antony Padiyara and Mar Varkey Vithayathil. Mar George Alanchery was named cardinal earlier this year following the demise of cardinal Vithayathil.
Cardinal Cleemis was born the fifth child of T.M. Mathew and Annamma at Mallappally in central Travancore in 1959. He studied philosophy at the Aluva St Joseph’s seminary and theology at the Pune Papal seminary. He became a priest in 1986, and earned a doctorate in ecumenism in 1997 from the St Thomas Pontifical seminary in Rome. In the Syro-Malankara church, his predecessors were Mar Ivanios, Mar Gregorios and Cyril Mar Baselios.