Indian archbishop chosen to become cardinal

.- One of the "most simple and approachable" Catholic leaders in India has been chosen for the cardinalate by Pope Benedict XVI.

Archbishop Oswald Gracias, of the Archdiocese of Bombay, was the only Asian among the 23 newly designated cardinals.  The Archdiocese of Bombay, which includes India's commercial center Mumbai, contains over half a million Catholics. 

His predecessor as archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Ivan Dias, moved to Rome in 2006 to serve as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

The 62 year-old cardinal-designate served six years as archbishop of Agra, the oldest diocese in northern India.  He currently heads the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, the national body of the country's Latin-rite bishops.  A two-time president of the Canon Law Society of India, he also teaches canon law at two Catholic seminaries.

The cardinal-to-be is also known for his ability to resolve conflicts. In 2006 he helped unify a Goa-based religious congregation that had split into two feuding groups in 1977.

Cardinal-designate Gracias recently challenged the Indian government's economic policy, believing its projects should be designed in consultation with the people they would affect.   He urged priests and laypeople to join public rallies and to lobby for beneficial policies.

His admirers say he has a way with words and is an affectionate and helpful man who never refuses a request.  They say his "bright face is always lit up with a smile."


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