Archbishop of Hyderabad Anthony Poola, who has been named by Pope Francis as one among 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.
Anthony Poola’s appointment as Cardinal marks the entry of a Dalit Christian into the College of Cardinals, which elect the Pope.
Anthony Poola, 62, hails from Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh. He led the diocese of Kurnool for over 12 years before being appointed as Archbishop of Hyderabad in 2020 by Pope Francis.
Pope Francis on Sunday announced that he would be elevating 21 churchmen, including two from India, to the rank of Cardinal.
Archbishop of Goa and Daman Filipe Neri Antonio Sebastiao di Rosario Ferrao is the other priest from India to be elevated as Cardinal.
Reacting to the appointment, Anthony called it ‘God’s will which he is accepting with humility’. He thanked Pope Francis for his trust.
He said his appointment as a cardinal is a privilege for the Telugu region and will grow the faith of the Church in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Various organisations, including Telugu Catholic Bishops’ Council were elated over Anthony Poola’s elevation. He is the first Telugu in the history of the Catholic Church to be appointed as Cardinal, considered as the second biggest title after the Pope.
Dalit groups activists have hailed the appointment of a Dalit as the Cardinal. They consider it as an honour and recognition for the oppressed sections of the society. The development is seen as a big boost for Dalits, who constitute over 60 per cent of the faithful of the Catholic Church in India.
With the addition of Anthony Poola and Filipe Neri AntAnio, the number of Cardinals from India has increased to six.
The new Cardinals will formally assure the responsibility on August 27 when the Pope would conduct the consistory or the ceremony to elevate churchmen to cardinal’s rank.
The College of Cardinals comprises 229 cardinals who are personally selected by the Pope. They elect the new Pope, serve as advisors to him and also act as papal envoys.
Born in Chindukur in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, Anthony Poola joined minor seminary in Kurnool and studied at St. Peter’s pontifical major seminary in Bengaluru.
He was ordained as a priest on February 20, 1992, at 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 as Archbishop to the metropolitan archdiocese of Hyderabad, which is spread over Hyderabad, Rangareddy, Medchal and surrounding districts of Hyderabad. In January last year, he took over as Archbishop of Hyderabad, thus becoming the spiritual head of lakhs of Catholics.
Anthony also served Chairman for Scheduled Castes/Backward Classes Commission (2008-2015), chairman of youth Commission Telugu region (2008-2015), chairman AP Social Service Society (2008-2020) and secretary general and treasurer of Telugu Catholic Bishops Council (2014-2020)