Pope Mourns Death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil

Prelate Served as President of Indian Bishops

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KAKKANAD, India, APRIL 1, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is affirming his sorrow at the death of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India.

In a telegram sent today to Bishop Bosco Puthur of the major archiepiscopal curia, the Pope said that he was “deeply saddened” to hear of the prelate’s death. The cardinal died of cardiac arrest at 2:00 p.m. today.

The Pontiff stated, “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,” he affirmed. “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.”

The Holy Father concluded, “To all assembled for the solemn funeral liturgy, I cordially impart my apostolic blessing as a pledge of consolation and strength in the Lord.”

Varkey Vithayathil was born in 1927. He joined the Redemptorists and was ordained a priest in 1954.

In 1955, he went to Rome for his studies in common law and a doctorate on the origin and progress of the Syro-Malabar hierarchy.

Father Vithayathil was ordained a bishop by Pope John Paul II in 1997. In 1999, he was appointed the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church and as the archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly.

He was elevated to cardinal in 2001. He was a member of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts and of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The cardinal also served as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India since 2008.

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