Two cardinals from Kerala are among the four from the country to leave for Vatican to cast their vote in elections for a new pope to replace Pope Benedict XVI, the leader of the Catholic church, who has announced that he would step down in view of advanced age.
The 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI, set to resign Feb 28, will be the first pope to resign in six centuries.
Sixty-six-year-old Major Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamaly diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church, Mar George Alencherry and 53-year-old Rev Dr Moran Mar Baselios Cleemis Catholicos, head of the capital city-headquartered Syro-Malankara Catholic Church are the two from Kerala who will join two other cardinals from India to elect the next pope.
Incidentally, both the men from Kerala were only elevated to the post of cardinal last year, on different occasions.
The spokesperson of the Syro-Malabar Church, Fr Paul Thelekkat said the electoral college consists of 120 cardinals. Only cardinals below the age of 80 are eligible to cast a vote in elections for a Pope.
"Even though there are 211 cardinals, there have to be 120 cardinals who are under the age of 80. These 120 not only cast their votes to elect a new pope, but each one of them can also contest for the post," Thelekkat said.
The 120 cardinals huddle together in prayer ahead of the elections. Once the election process starts, they come out only after the new pope is elected from among them. This could take about five days.
When the election process is completed, white smoke emerges from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, signalling to the world that a new pope has been elected.