Cardinal Oswald Gracias arrives for a pre-conclave meeting at the Vatican on March 9, 2013. (Photo: Filipo Monteforte/AFP)
Pope Francis has extended the tenure of Cardinal Oswald Gracias as the archbishop of Bombay after he crossed his canonical retirement age, which leaders say will benefit the Church in India.
A letter from the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples said Pope Francis had asked Cardinal Gracias to remain "until other provisions are made."
“It is a laudable decision. The Christian community stands to benefit immensely,” said Father Babu Joseph, former spokesman of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India.
Cardinal Gracias turned 75, the canonical age of retirement from the office of the archbishop, on Dec. 24. He had submitted his resignation to Pope Francis on Nov. 30.
The cardinal is a member of the team of cardinals whom Pope Francis handpicked to help him in renewing the Vatican Curia.
The Vatican congregation’s Dec. 6 letter, which has become public recently, expressed “gratitude” to the cardinal for what he is doing “for the service of the Church in Bombay, in India and in the universal Church.”
Father Joseph said Cardinal Gracias has been leading the Church in India at a crucial time ”when Christians in the country are increasingly facing a hostile atmosphere amid growing demand to make India a Hindu-only nation."
The cardinal heads the national bishops’ conference, and his “international stature and leadership qualities will certainly benefit the Catholic Church in India immensely,” said Father Joseph, a Divine Word priest based in Indore city in central India.
“His administrative experience and larger acceptability among leaders of the various Christian groups in India will go a long way in giving a direction to the Indian Christian community.”
Father Nigel Barrett, the cardinal’s spokesman in Mumbai, said it was “a good decision in the larger interests of the Catholic Church in India.”
“We will continue to get his leadership and gain from his national and international exposure,” he told UCA News on Jan. 29.
The Archdiocese of Bombay will specifically benefit from his in-depth knowledge of the diocese, the priest said.
Other Catholic leaders also welcomed the pope's decision to extend the tenure of Cardinal Gracias.