90-year-old ‘spiritual father’ of Mar Cleemis shares the special bond he has with his disciple.

As Major Archbishop Mar Baselios Cleemis was being elevated as a Cardinal in faraway Vatican, one frail old man sat silently, watching the ceremony on television and praying for his beloved disciple at the Carmel Hill Monastery at Cotton Hill here.

Fr. Bernadeen, who turns 91 next month, showed no signs of excitement. He sat there, with folded hands, from 2 p.m., watching the preludes to the ceremony on various channels, till the event got over about two hours later.

“I have known him for more than a decade and have been his confessor and spiritual director ever since,” he told The Hindu in a hushed tone, glancing at the screen in between. “He consults me on all matters and had come to see me before leaving for Vatican. I told him he will not be concerned just with Thiruvananthapuram any more, and will have take everyone along with him. But, he should make it a point not to miss his special time with God for mass every day,” he said, describing Mar Cleemis as ‘one chosen by God’.

Leaning forward occasionally, age telling on his hearing, Fr. Bernadeen said Mar Cleemis had all along been accessible to all, and helping everyone. At the same time, he stood firm in his principles.

“He comes from a family that received baptism directly from St. Thomas, and his ways have always reflected that,” said Fr. Bernadeen, recalling the first time he had met Mar Cleemis, which was in 1996, when he came for the golden jubilee celebrations of Fr. Bernadeen’s priesthood.

The young residents of the monastery, who stood silently near Fr. Bernadeen listened intently as he spoke of Mar Cleemis, often repeating that he was proud to be the ‘spiritual father’ of a ‘living witness to Christ’.

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