Listers, His Beatitude, Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum in India and head of the Syro-Malankara Church is now the youngest member – at age 53 – of the College of Cardinals. The ubiquitous Rocco Palmo comments:
Perhaps fittingly for an intake that was decidely Eastward-looking – or, as the Italians would have it, “soli stranieri” (read: “all strangers”) – it bears noting that this morning brought the elevation of the youngest member of the Pope’s Senate in the figure of the 53 year-old head of India’s Syro-Malankara Catholics, now Cardinal Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, shown above making the rounds following his induction.
Granted self-governing status only in early 2005 – and, thus, Catholicism’s youngest sui iuris Eastern church – the first-ever red hat for the 600,000-member community comes as a rather rapid triumph on several accounts. Over the last two decades, all of two clerics were younger still on entering the College: the Hungarian primate Peter Erdö (now head of the European bishops’ conference) at 51 in 2003 and Sarajevo’s Vinko Puljic, who John Paul II elevated at 49 in 1994 as the late pontiff’s sign of solidarity with the war-torn city, to which he was unable to travel amid the conflict over the breakup of Yugoslavia.
An alum of Rome’s Angelicum – where he received his doctorate in ecumenical theology in 1997 – Cleemis is a full two years’ junior to the next-youngest “prince” of the church, Manila’s Chito Tagle, who was likewise created today. As previously noted, the “50 barrier” last broken by Puljic is next expected to lift in the mid-term future with the all-but-certain elevation of the leader of the largest Eastern fold: the major-archbishop of the 6 million-member Ukrainian Greek-Catholic church, 42 year-old Sviatoslav Shevchuk.