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Syro-Malabar prepares to elect leader

Vithayathil's death sets stage for change to procedure approved by pope

Syro-Malabar prepares to elect leader
Syro-Malabar Catholics in New Delhi, Kochi

May 20, 2011

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The Syro-Malabar Church, the larger of India’s two Catholic Oriental rites, is preparing to elect its head for the first time. Until now, the pope appointed the major archbishop. According to Bishop Bosco Puthur, the administrator of the Archiepiscopal Church, the election will take place during a synod of bishops due to take place May 23-29 in Kochi, Kerala state’s commercial hub. The election was necessitated by the death of the Church’s head, Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, on April 1. The Canon Law and the Code of Canons for Oriental Churches stipulate that when the Major Archiepiscopal See falls vacant, the administrator should convene the synod within two months and make all necessary preparations to elect the new archbishop. Bishop Puthur had issued a circular announcing the synod on April 18. “The preparations for the election are going on. By the grace of God, the election will be a smooth affair,” said Bishop Puthur today. According to him, 46 bishops from all 29 Syro-Malabar eparchies have voting powers. “The major archbishop will be elected through a secret ballot,” he added. He also said all parishes and institutions under the Church began special prayers on May 1 for the success of the synod. The bishops will spend some time in prayers for guidance to elect “the right person to guide this ancient Church,” Bishop Puthur said. The Church was made a Major Archiepiscopal Church in 1992 by Pope John Paul II. He appointed Cardinal Antony Padiyara as its first major archbishop. However, the pope reserved the powers to appoint the major archbishop and bishops. The pope appointed Cardinal Vithayathil as the second major archbishop in 1997. Later in 2004, he granted the Church the right to elect its head and bishops. Related reports SYRO-MALABAR CHURCH GETS READY FOR FIRST ASSEMBLY AT FIRST SYRO MALABAR SYNOD PRONUNCIO CALLS FOR SERENITY IN THE CHURCH IB14276

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