Hyderabad: Archbishop of Hyderabad Anthony Poola, who was appointed by Pope Francis as one of the new cardinals of the Catholic Church, is not only the first Telugu person but also a first Dalit to be elevated to the rank. The appointment of Anthony Poola as cardinal marks the entry of a Dalit Christian into the College of Cardinals, which elects the pope.
Anthony Poola, 62, is from Kurnool district in Andhra Pradesh. He led the Diocese of Kurnool for over 12 years before being appointed Archbishop of Hyderabad in 2020 by Pope Francis. Pope Francis announced on Sunday that he would elevate 21 clergymen, including two Indians, to the rank of cardinal.
Archbishop of Goa and Daman Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao di Rosario Ferrao is the other Indian priest to be elevated to the rank of cardinal.
Reacting to the nomination, Anthony called it “the will of God which he humbly accepts”. He thanked Pope Francis for his trust.
He said his appointment as Cardinal is a privilege for the Telugu region and will increase the faith of the Church in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Various organizations including the Council of Catholic Bishops of Telugu were delighted with the elevation of Anthony Poola. He is the first Telugu in the history of the Catholic Church to be appointed a cardinal, considered the second highest title after pope.
Activists from Dalit groups welcomed the appointment of a Dalit to the post of cardinal. They consider it an honor and recognition for the oppressed sections of society. This development is seen as a big boost for the Dalits, who constitute over 60% of the Catholic Church in India.
With the addition of Anthony Poola and Filipe Neri AntAnio, the number of Indian cardinals increased to six.
The new cardinals will formally take charge on Aug. 27 when the pope leads the consistory or elevating ceremony for clergymen to the rank of cardinal.
The College of Cardinals includes 229 cardinals chosen personally by the pope. They elect the new pope, serve as his advisers, and also act as papal envoys.
Born in Chindukur in the Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, Anthony Poola joined Kurnool Minor Seminary and studied at St. Peter’s Pontifical Major Seminary in Bangalore.
He was ordained a priest on February 20, 1992 in Kadapa. After serving in the Diocese of Kadapa for over 16 years, he was appointed Bishop of Kurnool in 2008.
In November 2020, Pope Francis appointed Anthony Archbishop of the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Hyderabad which spans Hyderabad, Rangareddy, Medchal and surrounding districts of Hyderabad. In January last year, he took office as Archbishop of Hyderabad, becoming the spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands of Catholics.
Anthony also served as Chairman of Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes Commission (2008-2015), Chairman of Telugu Region Youth Commission (2008-2015), Chairman of AP Social Service Society (2008-2020 ) and General Secretary and Treasurer of the Council of Catholic Bishops of Telugu (2014-2020).