Thousands Attend Cardinal Vithayathil's Funeral

Encouraged to Follow His Footsteps

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KOCHI, India, APRIL 11, 2011 ( Tens of thousands of people gathered on Sunday for the funeral of Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, who served as major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly of the Syro-Malabars, India.

The 84-year-old cardinal, who also served a term as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, died of a heart attack on April 1.

Archbishop Cyril Vasil, secretary of the Congregation for Eastern Churches, attended the funeral on behalf of Benedict XVI, UCANews reported.

In a message sent April 1, the Pope stated: «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.»

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.»

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai and current president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, noted during the funeral, «We have to carry forward his vision by following his footsteps.»

Messages sent by Indian President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were read aloud during the ceremony.

The cardinal’s body was interred in St. Mary’s Basilica Cathedral in Kochi.

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