Catholics in Kerala mourn death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI | Photo: AP

Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi: New Year's Eve was a day of mourning for Kerala's Catholic community, which comprises a significant portion of the state's population, due to the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Saturday at the age of 95.

He was the first pontiff in 600 years to resign from the papacy and India got its first woman saint under his tenure.

Kerala nun Sister Alphonsa became Saint Alphonsa after being canonised by Pope Benedict XVI in 2008.

She was a nun belonging to the Syro Malabar Church, one of 23 "Oriental" or "Eastern" churches in full communion with the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church in Kerala is a communion of three individual churches -- Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro Malankara.

The Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC), an influential body of Catholic bishops in Kerala, paid tribute to Benedict and directed the churches and other christian establishments in the state to observe mourning from January 1 to 5.

During the period of mourning, celebrations should be preferably avoided and marriages and other rituals be carried out without much extravagance, it said in a release.

The Council also asked its followers to offer prayers for the departed soul during this period.

Head of Syro-Malabar Church George Alencherry directed all parishes under his command to toll bells in churches and Christian establishments.

Alencherry, while speaking to reporters, said Benedict surprised everyone with his in-depth knowledge about the Bible and his expertise in theology.

Head of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church Baselios Cleemis told reporters that Benedict gave continuity to the Catholic Church through his knowledge, research and experience.

Both Alencherry and Cleemis would be attending the funeral of Benedict, the KCBC release said.

The state political leadership joined the Catholics in mourning.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan expressed grief at the passing of the Pope Emeritus. "It is with immense grief that we receive the sad news of the passing of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Kerala joins all the faithful around the world in mourning the passing of the Pope Emeritus," Vijayan said on his Twitter handle.

Senior Congressman and Leader of Opposition in the State Assembly V D Satheesan said the death was a great loss to not only Christians but to the whole world.

Satheesan, in a Facebook post, said Benedict was a great theologian, scholar and a good shepherd leading believers to progressive ideas.

BJP state president K Surendran also condoled the death of Benedict.

Senior Left leaders and ministers Antony Raju and Roshy Augustine also expressed grief.

While Raju, on his Facebook page, condoled the death, Augustine said he was pained to hear the tragic news.

"He was the first Pope to abdicate his post in the history of the church and his life will continue to shine light on the world and church. Let us pray for the peace of his soul," Augustine said.

Benedict stunned the world on February 11, 2013, when he announced that he no longer had the strength to run the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic Church that he had steered for eight years through scandal and indifference.

His dramatic decision paved the way for the conclave that elected Pope Francis as his successor.

The two popes then lived side-by-side in the Vatican gardens, an unprecedented arrangement.


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