Vatican City: The newly appointed cardinal-designate of the Syro-Malankara Church has said that his appointment is a sign of Pope Benedict XVI's appreciation for Indian Catholics' "unity in diversity."
Archbishop Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, who was appointed as the first ever cardinal of the church on Oct. 24, is in the Vatican City to attend the Synod of Bishops on new evangelization . Addressing the synod on Oct. 13, the 53-year-old prelate focused on the need for the Church to give a practical witness t the Gospel values and ensure that its liturgies are true experiences of prayer.
"Our dear Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata brought to the world, especially to India, a very practical means of evangelization: a witnessing model," he said. She became the most effective missionary in a land where Christians are only less than 3 per cent of the population, he added.
The cardinal-designate also told the synod that Jesus' promise of abundant life places an obligation on Christians to defend human life, human dignity and human rights. Meanwhile, half a million faithful across the globe celebrated Major Archbishop Cleemis’ elevation to the rank. Metropolitan Archbishop Thomas Mar Koorilos of Thiruvalla made the announcement at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Pattom in Kerala. “It’s a historic moment for our church and a great honor. We thank God for this great gift,” he said. “He has always strived to spread the belief of the Church” and to uphold India’s heritage on a global platform. This is “recognition for his great work,” the archbishop added.
Celebrations by the clergy and the laity were marked with prayer sessions, the tolling of church bells and bursting firecrackers. Father Paul Thelakkat, spokesperson for the Syro-Malabar Church, said the new cardinal's appointment is an acknowledgment of "the vibrancy and diversity of the different rites in the Catholic Church."
Syro-Malankara is one of the three Catholic rites in India. The other two are Syro-Malabar and Latin rites.