Kerala cardinal passes away

April 1st, 2011 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Kochi, April 1 (IANS) Cardinal Mar Varkey Vithayathil, head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, died here Friday. He was 84.

Church spokesperson Father Paul Thelekkat said the cardinal fell down unconscious at 10 a.m. while conducting the mass.

“He was rushed to a hospital. Despite the doctors’ best efforts, he breathed his last at 2 p.m.,” said Thelekkat.

“Since all our bishops are away meeting the Pope, which happens once in five years, the body would be kept in the mortuary. The date of the funeral will be announced later,” added Thelekkat.

A hugely respected bishop, Vithayathil was ordained as a priest in 1954. Pope John Paul II nominated him as a member of the college of cardinals Jan 21, 2001.

He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI.

In February 2008, he was elected president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

With assembly elections just weeks away and the church having considerable clout, many candidates from across the state have started rushing here to pay their last respects to the departed cardinal.

Among those who paid their last respects was Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat.

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