Pope Benedict XVI has urged bishops of the Syro-Malabar rite to take special care to work closely with other bishops. Each Bishop is called to be a minister of unity in his particular church and within the universal Church. “This responsibility is of special importance in a country like India where the unity of the Church is reflected in the rich diversity of her rites and traditions,” the Pope told the Indian bishops in English during their audience yesterday. The Syro-Malabar rite bishops are on their five-yearly "ad limina" visit to give detailed reports on their diocese to the Pope and meet with Vatican officials. “I encourage you to do all you can to continue to foster the communion between yourselves and all Catholic bishops throughout the world," the Pope said. Pope Benedict also remembered Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church who died last Friday at the age of 83. Commenting on the ad limina visit, Bishop Bosco Putur, curial bishop of the Syro-Malabar Bishops’ Synod said he had a personal audience with the Pope as head of the Syro-Malabar Church in the absence of the late cardinal. Even though the bishops are in mourning, the ad limina visit was "a fine experience we can say, for the entire body of bishops." Bishop Putur said the bishops, with regards to matters concerning their Church, are “happy with the positive attitude of the Pope and the Roman dicasteri (departments). " He also said he briefed the Pope about problems faced by the Syro-Malabar rite especially over building churches and conducting services in dioceses from other rites. “These things, we cannot rush... but the [Roman] attitude certainly is turning very positive," he added. Bishop Puthur said he will call together the Syro-Malabar Synod as soon as possible for the election of a major archbishop to succeed Cardinal Vithayathil. The elected candidate will await approval from Rome. The entire process will be over by the end of May. The bishops left Rome for India today to attend the funeral of the cardinal which is to take place on Sunday. The Syro-Malabar Church, which traces its origin to Saint Thomas the Apostle, is rooted in Kerala, southern India, where it has most of its dioceses. The Church accounts for close to 4 million Catholics worldwide. It is one of three rites that form the Church in India and follows Syrian liturgies and customs, as does the Syro-Malankara Church, another Oriental rite also based in Kerala. The third, the Latin-rite Church, uses the Roman liturgy, introduced by European missioners in the 15th century.
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