Staff Reporter

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Pope Benedict XVI has elevated the St. Mary Queen of Peace Pro-Cathedral at Palayam as a Basilica.

The cathedral is the first of the Syro-Malankara churches and the first church in the city to be accorded the status of a Basilica.

The Pope’s orders relating to the elevation were read out after a prayer service at the St. Mary’s Cathedral Pattom by Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, the prefect of the Congregation for Eastern Churches.

Bells were rung simultaneously at the Cathedral and at the new Basilica when the announcement was read out.

Earlier in the day, the Cardinal was accorded an official welcome by the representatives of the Syro-Malankara church led by Major Archbishop Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis.

Cardinal Sandri offered prayers at the tombs of the late Archbishop Mar Ivanios and other metropolitans of the church.

In the evening, Cardinal Sandri visited the students of divinity at the St. Mary’s major seminary at Nalanchira. Later, he visited the new Basilica where he was welcomed by Vicar John Kochuthundil.

The Cardinal subsequently held discussions at the Major Archbishop’s house at Pattom with all priests of the Syro-Malankara church before participating in a dinner-reception with invited guests.

He also held one-to-one discussions with Archbishop Baselios Cleemis.

The Cardinal will leave for Rome on Tuesday, a press note issued here said.