2011-04-01 14:47:53

Pope mourns sudden death of Indian Cardinal

Pope Benedict XVI has sent a telegram of condolences to the Syro-Malabar church in India on news of the sudden death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly. The Bishops of the Syro-Malabar Church are currently in Rome on their Ad Limina pilgrimage.

Addressed to Bishop Bosco Puthur, the Pope wrote "I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly. I offer you, the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the entire Syro-Malabar Church my deepest condolences and the assurance of my prayers. I recall with gratitude the Cardinal’s dedication and service to the Syro-Malabars and to the universal Church. I join you and all who mourn him, including the members of the late Cardinal’s family, in commending his soul to the infinite mercy of God our loving Father. To all assembled for the solemn funeral liturgy, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Lord.Benedictus PP. XVI
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil was appointed as the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam- Angamaly Archdiocese as well as the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in 1997. He was elevated to the status of Cardinal in 2001 and in that capacity he also participated in the election of the Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
During his relatively short tenure of leadership of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil led the Church through turbulent times with fortitude and foresight. Cardinal Vithayathil always witnessed to a preferential love for the poor and disadvantaged in society; and he spoke up for them in every forum.
The hallmark of Cardinal Vithayathil’s personality was his simplicity; he could easily identify himself with the high and the lowly with ease. But at the same time his lofty ideals always made him stand out among the Church leaders; he took strong and clear positions on several religious, social and even political issues that constantly challenged the Church in India.
His death has created a vacuum in the Indian Church and this void will not be easily filled up. At this hour of grief, we pray that the Lord may give courage to all his near and dear ones to bear this immense loss and continue to cherish the hallowed memory of his worthy leadership in the Church. The College of Cardinals now counts 200 members, 116 electors and 84 non electors

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