Kochi: Catholics in Kerala were elated as Mar George Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, was on Saturday ordained a cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. Many of the Catholics, who form 50 per cent of the over seven million Christians in Kerala, were glued to the live coverage from the Vatican as Alencherry was ordained by the Pope along with 21 other bishops from various countries.
Alencherry, 66, becomes the youngest cardinal in the country and the fourth Keralite to be ordained.
Counting Alencherry, there are now six cardinals in India, of whom three are above 80 years and hence do not have voting rights to elect a pope. However, Alencherry and the two others will be among the 120 cardinals who form the electoral college for the pope's election.
Syro-Malabar Church spokesperson, Father Paul Thelekkat said this is a big moment for all of them because "their own son" has now been ordained as a cardinal.
"Alencherry is humility personified and a down to earth person," he said.
In Kerala, three churches - the Syro-Malabar, Latin and Syro-Malankara - owe their allegiance to the Pope.
Speaking to IANS, Kiran Abraham, an IT professional, said that for any Catholic priest, after being ordained as a cardinal, there is just one more post left to reach - that of the Pope.
"Hence this is a huge recognition for him (Alencherry) in particular and the Catholic community in the state in general," said Abraham.
Speaking to the media in Kochi from Vatican, Father William Nellikal, in charge of the Malayalam division of Radio Vatican, said that now each of the newly ordained cardinals will be given a church in Rome and will oversee its functioning.
"Alencherry would be given the same church which his predecessor, late Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, was given when he was ordained as a cardinal. Whenever he is in Rome, he would be visiting his church," said Nellikal.
Alencherry would be in Rome till February 26 when he leaves for Israel and would return to Kochi on March 5.
Born in Kottayam district, Alencherry was ordained a priest in 1972 and since then has held important posts in the church.
Ordained a bishop in 1997, he was elected as the Major Archbishop by his church in May 2011.