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Cardinal Cleemis elected President of CBCI
Update on:12-Feb-2014

Palai: Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, head of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, was Tuesday elected president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).

Cardinal Cleemis replaces Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, as the head of India’s 18 million Catholics who belong to ritual Churches of Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara.

The CBCI, council of prelates from all the three rites, is the third largest episcopal conference in the world.

Syro-Malabar Archbishop Andrews Thazhath of Trichur was elected the first vice president of the conference while Latin Archbishop Philip Neri of Goa and Daman was elected the second vice president.

The new CBCI office bearers were elected on the sixth day of the ongoing plenary assembly at Palai, Kerala. The weeklong conference that began on February 5 addressed mainly how a renewed Church could help renew society.

Archbishop Albert D’Souza of Agra Latin Archbishop was reelected the secretary general.

The 54-year-old new CBCI president is one of the youngest cardinals of the Catholic Church. He is also one of the youngest prelates to head the Indian Church.

Pope Benedict XVI made him a cardinal only two years ago. He is the first cardinal from the Syro-Malankara Church, the youngest of the Catholic Church’s 23 rites.

He is also a member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

A month ago, the Indian government appointed him member of the National Integration Council, a group of senior politicians and public figures that looks for ways to address the problems of communalism, casteism and regionalism in the country. It originated in a conference convened by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1961. The purpose was to find ways to counter problems that were dividing the country including attachment to specific communities, castes, regions and languages.

Cleemis was born on June 15, 1959 as Isaac Thottumkal at a village in Pathanamthitta district as the son of Mathew and Annamma Thottumkal.

He attended minor seminary at Tiruvalla and received a B. Phil degree from St. Joseph’s Pontifical at Aluva. He later studied at the Papal Seminary and was ordained a priest on June 11, 1986, five months after Pope John Paul II visited India for the first time.

He took Masters in Theology from Dharmaram College, Bangalore and obtained doctorate from Ecumenical Theology from Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome in 1997.

The Vatican appointed Cleemis Tiruvalla bishop in 2003 and was elevated as Metropolitan Archbishop in 2006.

He rose to become the Second Catholicos of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church through the Episcopal Synod of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in 2007.

Cleemis participated as a Cardinal-elector in the conclave that elected Pope Francis.




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