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Mumbai cardinal to head crucial Vatican office

Cardinal Ivan Dias, has been appointed as the Vatican's Prefect of the Congregation of Evangelisation of Peoples.

india Updated: May 20, 2006 18:06 IST

Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday appointed Cardinal Ivan Dias, archbishop of Mumbai, as the Vatican's Prefect of the Congregation of Evangelisation of Peoples.

The announcement was made simultaneously in the Vatican at 11 am local time and 4 pm at the archdiocese office.

"The pope has asked the 70-year-old cardinal to continue as 'administrator' of the largest Catholic archdiocese in the country till he takes charge of his new office at the Vatican headquarters," Father Anthony Charanghat, spokesperson of Archdiocese of Mumbai, said.

The spokesperson said the cardinal heading the office was also known as the "Red Pope" because of his influence and jurisdiction over many continents and the nature of the work involved.

The Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, founded in 1622, is the Vatican's department entrusted with the coordination of programmes aimed at spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in territories where Christianity is still young.

Currently, this covers an area of about 64 million square km in the five continents where the Catholic population totals 185 million.

The Congregation offices are situated at the famous Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) in the heart of Rome.

The office of the prefect of the Congregation has also been engaged in uniting Catholic Church of Rome with various independent oriental Christian orthodox churches in Egypt, Greek, Russia and Protestant Churches, including Lutheran and Calvin ones, and work towards ecumenical unity of the churches.

Cardinal Dias will bring his flair for languages - he knows 18 languages - to the new office.

Earlier, Cardinal Dias was consulter to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a member of Vatican's Pontifical Council for Cultures and Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for five years.

Born in Bandra suburb of Mumbai, he was ordained a priest in 1958. After obtaining a doctorate in Canon Law at the Lateran University in Rome in 1964, he served in the diplomatic service of the Vatican City 33 years, first as secretary in the Papal Ambassadors Offices in the Scandinavian and Nordic countries, Indonesia and Madagascar.

During 1973-82, he was the chief of desk at the Vatican Secretariat of State for many countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. He served as a papal representative in Ghana, Togo, Benin, South Korea and Albania from 1982-97.

Cardinal Dias was appointed archbishop of Mumbai in 1996 and was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in 2001. He is a member of eight dicasteries (departments) of the Holy See.