Could the next Pope, or maybe the one after him, be from India? Chances of a top pontiff from the non-Western world, including India, are brighter now, a Catholic church has said, after an Indian was made the youngest "cardinal" in the world.
The Pope, on November 24, named Major Archbishop Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis, 53, of the Syro-Malankara church, Thiruvanathapuram, as member of the college of cardinals that elects the Pope.
India sent an official diplomatic delegation led by Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien for the event. Cleemis took along an imam and a Hindu priest as guests.
With five cardinals already, India now has the third highest number of these holy men, next only to Italy and the US — a milestone for a non-West, non-Christian country.
Pope Benedict named six new cardinals in all, including two from nations with large Muslim populations. All of them are under 80 years and, therefore, eligible to one day also choose Benedict's successor.
"Because Cleemis is the youngest, he could also be the Pope one day if Gold permits," said senior church leader Bishop Jacob Mar Barnabas.
Popes usually hold office for life, but Benedict has said he could be the first pontiff to step down in more than 700 years if he felt "physically, psychologically and spiritually" unfit.
Cleemis was promoted to the elite group known as "cardinal electors", among others from Lebanon, Nigeria, Colombia and the Philippines.
"I should be the last one to be the Pope. I just feel blessed to born an Indian and get this honour, that's all," Cleemis told HT.
Kerala-based Syro-Malankara or Syrian Malankara church is one of the Saint Thomas Christian churches that trace their origins to Saint Thomas, the Apostle in the 1st century.