The Christian Church in Kerala grabbed international attention for the second time this year as Pope Benedict XVI installed Baselios Mar Cleemis, Major Archbishop of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, Cardinal of the Catholic Church at a ceremony at the St. Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican on Saturday.

The Pontiff placed the beret and presented Mar Cleemis the ring at 4.10 p.m., marking a new high for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Along with him, the Pope installed five other Cardinals, all of them, like Mar Cleemis, from non-European nations. Earlier this year, the Pope had installed Mar George Alancherry of the Syro Malabar Catholic Church Cardinal. With Mar Cleemis’ ascent to the College of Cardinals, Kerala has the rare distinction of being home to two Cardinals.

As the Pontiff placed the red and black beret, specially crafted to symbolise the traditions of the oriental Church, over Mar Cleemis’ head, loud cheers and prayers rose from the hundreds who had had gathered at the St. Mary’s Basilica at Pattom here and at his hometown Mallappally in Pathanamthitta district to watch the historic moment live on TV.

At The Vatican, an official delegation led by Rajya Sabha deputy chairman P.J. Kurien, Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation K.C. Venugopal and E.T. Mohammed Basheer and Jose K. Mani, both MPs, a delegation representing the capital city led by Mayor K. Chandrika, Cardinals led by Cardinal George Alancherry, and Thiruvananthapuram Latin Archbishop Susaipakiam, all Bishops of the Syro Malankara Catholic Church, and a multi-religious delegation comprising Swami Sookshmananda of the Sivagiri Math, Palayam Imam Jamaluddin Mankada, Swami Gururathnam Jnanathapaswi of the Santhigiri Ashram, Bishop Joseph Barnabas of the Marthoma Church, CSI Bishop Dharmaraj Rasalam, among others, were present to witness the installation of the new Cardinal.

Shortly after his installation, the new Cardinal told television channels: “I place on record my respect for our nation. Let Kerala receive the blessings of God. I pray for all Malayalis. Let God lead our State from prosperity to greater prosperity”.

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