Archbishop Anthony Poola, first Dalit to be appointed a cardinal

The Archbishop of Hyderabad, Mgr. Anthony Poola, who hails from the Dalit caste, once called “untouchable”, is one of 21 new cardinals appointed by Pope Francis. A “good news” for Dalits, who are often discriminated against, who represent the majority of the Catholic Church’s faithful in India.

On Sunday, in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis announced his intention to appoint 21 new cardinals whose inauguration is scheduled for 27 August. It is the highest rank in the Catholic Church, behind the pope.

Vatican News reported that they were from four continents: eight from Europe, six from Asia, two from Africa, one from North America and four from Central and Latin America.

Among the newly appointed cardinals on the Asian continent is the Archbishop of Hyderabad, Mgr. Anthony Poola.

This is a very important appointment for the Catholic Church in India, because as expressed AsiaNewsThe future cardinals belonged to the Dalit caste, formerly called the Untouchables, a population excluded from the Hindu caste system that still experiences discrimination today.

According to Jesuit AXJ Bosco, a Dalit rights activist, this news “is of great joy to Dalits, who represent more than 65% of the faithful of the Catholic Church in India”.

“Pope Francis wanted the Church to be a synod, listening to everyone, including young children: now Dalit Christians too feel they have been heard after years of struggle,” he continued.

Referring to the future cardinal, he described a “educated man, very kind to everyone” who cared for the poor and “deeply cared for the Dalits”.

Asked by AsiaNews, Bishop Anthony Poola said he thanked the pope for his trust. “This is God’s will which I humbly accept: I am not worthy,” he also said.

“I believe that my appointment as a Cardinal is a privilege for the Telugu region and will increase the faith of the Church in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. I am a Dalit”, asserted the religious who therefore considered his appointment “good news for Dalit Catholics and for the whole Church in India”.

Camille Westphal Perrier

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