Sunday, 8 January 2012


Major Archbishop Alencherril Mar Giwargis Bava has been designated as a Cardinal. The Syro Malabar Church- the Holy See of Apostle Thomas has been recognised again. The Father and Head of the Catholic Thomas Christians is in the supreme council of the See of Apostle Peter.

It was not unexpected that Major Archbishop Alencherril Mar Giwargis Bava would be elevated into a Cardinal. The first Syro Malabar dignitary to become a Cardinal was Mar Joseph Parekkattil, the late Archbishop of Ernaculum in AD 1969. The first Indian Cardinal was Cardinal Valarian Gracious who was the Archbishop of Bombay, elevated to the rank of a Cardinal in AD 1953.There were 10 Cardinals from India so far.

They were

1 Cardinal Valarian Gracious (1953)
2.Cardinal Joseph Parekkattiil (1969)
3.Cardinal Lawrence Picachy- (1976)
4.Cardinal Simon Lourdesami (1985)
5 Cardinal Antony Padiyara (1988)
6 Cardinal Simon Pimenta (1988)
7 Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil (2001)
8 Cardinal Ivan Dias (2001)
9 Cardinal Telesphore Toppo (2003)
10 Cardinal Oswald Gracias (2007)

Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinals are important dignitaries-senior ecclesiastical official- of the Roman Catholic Church. They are called Princes of the Church. The Cardinals work as counsellors to the Pope of Rome in various aspects of the government of the Church. They assist the Roman Pontiff either collegially or individually when they occupy various offices in the Roman Curia. The college of Cardinals elect the Pope of Rome in a vacancy. Thus, the college of Cardinals function like a 'Permanent Synod'. (1) Cardinals are so previlaged in the Catholic Church that they come immediately after the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.

The three Grades of Cardinals

The Cardinals are of three degrees- The Cardinal Bishops, The Cardinal Priests and the Cardinal Deacons.

Cardinal Bishops

Even though all the Cardinals are of Episcopal order, Cardinals are of three degrees. Cardinal Bishops are senior prelates holding titles of titular bishops of the Sees in the vicinity of Rome(suburbicarian Sees) and hold important administrative positions in the Roman Curia. They are limited in number. The Eastern Patriarchs who were elevated to the Cardinals are also included in this order, but they hold their original title. Cardinal Bishops have always been from the Episcopal order. The head of the College of Cardinals- the Dean is elected from the Cardinal Bishops. The Dean of the College of Cardinals presides over should a vacancy of a Pope occurs and coordinates the conclave.

Cardinal Priests.

Today, most of the Cardinals are Cardinal Priests, even though they are Bishops. In the past, Cardinal Priests were important Priests in Rome who were selected by the Pope to assist and advise him. When the church started appointing Cardinals from beyond Roman territories, each one is assigned to a titular church in Rome. Cardinal Priests are inferior in rank to the Cardinal Bishops.

Cardinal Deacons.

Cardinal Deacons are the most inferior in rank among the cardinals. They represent the ancient seven deacons of the Papal household and seven deacons who supervised the work of the church in seven districts of Rome. Today, the Cardinal Deacons are the officials of Roman Curia or Priests who were elevated to a Cardinal after the age of 80. The senior most Cardinal Deacon is called the Cardinal Proto Deacon or Senior Cardinal Deacon, who announces the election of a Pope after the conclave. In the past, laymen could become a Cardinal and were enrolled as a Cardinal Deacon. In 1917,( Pope Benedict XV) it was promulgated that only Priests and Bishops could become a Cardinal. Since the time of Pope John XXIII, it became customary that a Cardinal designate who is not a Bishop has to be consecrated as a Bishop before occupying the post. (2)


Cardinals wear a scarlett cassock- blood like red colour symbolises that they are willing to die for the church, over which, a white rochet, scarlet mozzetta and a scarlet biretta- a square cap. But, Eastern rite Patriarchs continue to wear their normal dress appropriate to their rite. All the previous Syro Malabar Cardinals were seen wearing the Latin vestments.

It is enlightening that our Bava has hinted that he would not prefer Roman vestments and continue to wear the vestments appropriate to the Syro Malabar Church. We are grateful to the Lord Iso Mishiha in having a Pontiff who upholds the identity and individuality of our Church in the Universal Catholic Communion.

Cardinals from Syro Malabar Church.

Syro Malabar hierarchy was restored in AD 1887. Native Prelates were appointed in only AD 1896.

The first person elevated to a Cardinal from the Syro Malabar Church was Mar Joseph Parekkattil, the late Archbishop of Ernaculum in AD 1969. He was enrolled as a Cardinal Priest of S. Maria "Regina Pacis" a Monte Verde in the consistory of 28 April 1969. He has participated in the conclave in August 1978 to elect Pope John Paul I and also in October 1978 to elect pope John Paul II.

Late Major Archbishop Padiyara Mar Antonius Bava was elevated as a Cardinal Priest in 1988. He was enrolled in the consistory of 28 June 1988 as the Cardinal Priest of S. Maria "Regina Pacis" a Monte Verde.

Late Major Archbishop Vithayathil Mar Giwargis I Bava was elevated as a Cardinal Priest of S Bernardo alle Terme on 21 Feb 2001 and has attended the conclave in 2005 to elect Pope Benedict XVI.

Now, Major Archbishop Alencheril Mar Giwargis II Bava has been designated as a Cardinal and will be enrolled in the consistory on 18 February 2012.

Cardinal position for Eastern Churches.

College of Cardinals are like the permanent synod of the Universal Catholic Church. It is considered as a special recognition of the Eastern particular churches, to include them also in the College of Cardinlas. Syro Malabar Church has been recognised to be elevated into this status for the last 43 years and thus, the voices of the Syro Malabar church was heard in the highest statutory body of the Universal Catholic Church.

All these recognition are the effects of the great work done by personalities like Rev Dr Placid Podipara in Rome. As a Consultor in Rome for the Holy See, he argued for the recognition of the Eastern Rite particular churches in the Catholic communion and promulgated the concept of the Universal Catholic Church as a communion of the See of Rome and the Eastern churches. Eastern Churches were given autonomy.

Still, many corners consider that the concept of the Universality of Catholic Church is not completely evolved yet. Roman rite is still considered as the Universal church with Eastern Churches as its minor partners. We need people like Rev Dr Placid today to redefine the concept Universal Catholic Church with Roman rite and Eastern rites as its equal partners accepting the primacy of the Patriarch of Rome. Now, the representation of Eastern Catholic Churches is merely the membership of four or five in the college of 192 Cardinals.

The Universal Catholic Communion has to have another superior level of council like a real permanent synod with all the heads of the particular churches as members with its primus inter pares(first among equals), the Patriarch of Rome. Let the College of Cardinals be the superior council of the Roman Curia as it is now. In this situation, the Eastern Patriarchs and Archbishops need not be members of the College of Cardinals but members of the superior authority- the permanent synod of the Universal Catholic Church which deals with the Universality of the Church. This status will give more independence to the Eastern churches and limit the confusion among the Bishops, clergy and laity about the role of a Particular Church in the communion. This will encourage ecumenism also as many non catholic churches are still anxious about the colonial hang up of the Roman Rite. Let us hope that the Ruha D Kudisha will guide our Fathers in this regard and influence them to lead the evolution of the Universal Catholic Communion in the real sense.


Let us hope that we don't under estimate the title of Major Archbishop over this Cardinal title. Many people consider the title of Cardinal, superior to that of a Major Archbishop, which s not true. Major Archbishop is the Father and Head of the Particular Church- the Director of the See of Apostle Thomas. It is much a higher dignity than membership in the College of Cardinals.
Let us pray our Lord to strengthen our Bava to lead us to eternal salvation by keeping our identity and individuality in the Universal Catholic Church. Let the Ruha D Kudisha inspire him to influence the Fathers of the Universal Church in his new role.


1. Catholic encyclopedia article about Cardinal. accessed on 08 Jan 2012
2 Wikipeia article about Cardinal ( catholicism) accessed on 08 January 2011


Antony Kureekkal said...

A well written article.Arguments for the restoration of the lost dignity of the Malabar Church , are valid in all counts.

Regarding the historical aspects I have some divergent views.How can the author state that the arrival Apostle Thomas in North ( West ) India is an accepted story ? Though the existence of Indo-Parthian King Gondophoros , in the year 50 A.D,.is an established truth, on the basis of the numismatic findings, there is no evidence to correlate it to the Apostolate of St.Thomas, in that area, other than the descriptions in the apocryphal historical-fiction , ‘Acts of Thomas’. At the same time, 2000 year old Malabar tradition , has the strong sanction of many eminent historians, early Church fathers and World travelers ,at least as a ‘ historical probability’. The recent excavations at Pattanam ( Muziris) provides more supportive evidence to Malabar ( South Indian) tradition.

Also, it is not historically correct to connect the Persian Crosses with Pahlavi inscription, to Apostle Thomas, whose language is Aramaic As per expert opinion , Pahlavi language ( Middle Persian) was in use in the 6th to 8th century or later.At the same time it is the most appropriate and meaningful symbol of St.Thomas tradition.

I invite your kind attention to my blog ‘ Antiquity of Indian Christianity ‘and request you visit & send your valuable comments.

Anonymous said...

Generally A Cardinal tittle is given to the people with Personal excellence, but here its a routine, its just a represenation given to the Syro Malabaries in Collge of cardinals.

Anonymous said...

Response to "25 January 2012 13:18":
It can be for both reasons: (i) personal excellence and (ii) representation of the SyroMalabar. There is no reason to minimize the event.