Catholics welcome India’s first Dalit cardinal

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Catholics in India have welcomed the Vatican’s announcement of the appointment of the first Dalit as cardinal.

May 31, 2022

Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman (left) and Archbishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad. (Pictures provided)

DELHI: Catholics in India have welcomed the Vatican’s announcement of the appointment of the first Dalit as cardinal.

The elevation of Bishop Anthony Poola of Hyderabad among 21 new cardinals created by Pope Francis was announced on May 29.

Another Indian prelate, Archbishop Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastao di Rosario Ferrao of Goa and Daman, is also to become a cardinal.

“This is a proud moment for all Indians regardless of caste and creed,” National Council of Dalit Christians (NCDC) coordinator Franklin Caesar Thomas told UCA News.

The elevation of Archbishop Poola comes after decades of protests by Dalit Catholic groups seeking to appoint members of their community to “greater service”. There was also a demand for an Indian Dalit rite in the Catholic Church.

The protests had become more acute with a group of Dalit Catholics in the southern state of Tamil Nadu opposing the installation of a non-Dalit archbishop for the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore.

The Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) staged street protests against the appointment of Bishop Francis Kalist of Meerut as Metropolitan Archbishop of Pondicherry-Cuddalore in March.

Bishop Poola will be the first Dalit and also “the first Telugu [native of Andhra Pradesh state] in the history of the Catholic Church to be appointed cardinal, the second highest title after pope,” said Fr. S. Bernard, Vicar General of Hyderabad, quoted by the Hindustan time May 30.

Father Bernard further called it “an honor and recognition for oppressed sections of Christianity”.

It is a proud moment for the Archdiocese of Hyderabad and for Telugu-speaking people, Fr. T. Victor Emmanuel, Procurator and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Hyderabad, said May 29.

Bishop Poola will also now be part of the College of Cardinals, which comprises 229 cardinals, 131 of whom are electors of the pope.

Archbishop Poola was born in Chindhukur, Andhra Pradesh on November 15, 1961. He joined Kurnool Minor Seminary and later studied at St. Peter’s Pontifical Major Seminary in Bangalore.

He was ordained a priest on February 20, 1992. He was 46 when he was appointed Bishop of Kurnool on February 8, 2008. He was appointed Archbishop of Hyderabad by Pope Francis on November 19, 2020, and was installed as his 11th archbishop on January 3, 2021.

Previously, he served as Deputy Pastor at Amagampalli and Pastor at Tekurpet, Correspondent RCM Elementary Schools, Chinayarasal and Kappalapalli and Our Lady of Fatima Church, Badvel.

He was also Director of St. Thomas Boarding Home, Badvel, Director of Vander Valk Boy’s Boarding Home and Resident Priest at St. Joseph’s Church, Kalamazoo Diocese, USA.

He was President of Andhra Pradesh Social Service Society from 2008 to 2020, General Secretary and Treasurer of Telugu Catholic Bishops’ Conference (TCBC) from 2014 to 2020, President of Sikh Village Campus, Secretariat of Community Priests of TCBC from 2014 to 20 and Chairman of Jeevan in-state Printing Press from 2014 to 2020.

Bishop Ferrao was born on January 20, 1953 in Aldona, Goa. He was ordained a priest on October 28, 1979. He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman at the age of 40 on December 20, 1993. He was ordained a bishop on April 10, 1994 and received the titular see Vanariona.

He was appointed Metropolitan Archbishop of Goa and Daman and Patriarch ad honorem of the East Indies on December 12, 2003.

He was installed as Archbishop on March 21, 2004. He has also served the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CCBI) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) as Vice President. He is fluent in Konkani, English, Portuguese, Italian, French and German.

He was elected President of the CCBI at its 31st Plenary Assembly in Chennai in 2019.

He is a former Chairman of the Office of Education and Religious Formation of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

The 21 new cardinals – eight from Europe, six from Asia, two from Africa, one from North America and four from Central and Latin America – will receive their red caps from Pope Francis on August 27.ucanews.com

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