Pope Benedict XVI names Major Archbishop Mar Baselios Cleemis, head of the Syro-Malankara Church, as Cardinal.

He is the first Cardinal of the Syro-Malankara rite of the Catholic Church. At 53, he is among the youngest Cardinals in the Catholic Church.

Mar Cleemis is currently attending the golden jubilee proceedings of the Vatican Second Council at Rome and the investiture will be held on November 24, along with five others who were named Cardinals by the Vatican. Among the five is Patriarch of the Lebanon-based Maronite Catholic Church Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi, who had visited Kerala a month ago.

Metropolitan Archbishop of Thiruvalla Thomas Mar Coorilos made the announcement at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Pattom, at 3.30 p.m., synchronising with the announcement made in the Vatican. Prayer sessions, tolling of bells, and bursting of firecrackers marked the function at the church.

“This is a great honour to the Malankara Church everywhere,” said Samuel Mar Irenios, Auxiliary Bishop of Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala is now home to two Cardinals, with Mar George Alencherry of the Syro-Malabar Church being appointed as Cardinal earlier this year. Born in Pathanthitta in 1959, Mar Cleemis’s record spans from the pre-degree he completed at St. Berchman’s College, Changanassery, to the doctorate he obtained at St. Thomas Pontifical University in Rome (in Ecumenism) in 1997. He was a priest at the diocese of Bathery and has also served as patron of the Indian Christian Forum and the St. Thomas Ecumenical Federation of India in the U.S. Mar Cleemis was consecrated as Bishop of Thiruvalla in 2003 and was elevated as Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Church in 2007.

An honour: Chandy

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has termed Major Archbishop Baselios Mar Cleemis’ elevation as Cardinal an honour for the Indian Church. An official release said here that Mr. Chandy had called up Mar Cleemis and congratulated him on his elevation as Cardinal.