Vatican City — An Indian cardinal who had been the editor of a Catholic weekly newspaper before coming to Rome to serve as head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches died in Rome at the age of 90.
The death of Cardinal Simon Lourdusamy June 2 leaves the College of Cardinals with 214 members, 118 of whom are younger than 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave.
In a telegram of condolence to Archbishop Anthony Anandarayar of Pondicherry and Cuddalore, Pope Francis recalled the late cardinal who spent his life "spreading the Gospel first in India and subsequently in service to the universal church."
Born in 1924 in Kalleri, India, the late cardinal was ordained a priest of Pondicherry in 1951. He was made auxiliary bishop of Bangalore in 1962 and archbishop four years later.
While in India, he served as editor of "Sarva Vyabi," the archdiocese's Tamil Catholic weekly; director of the Catholic Doctors' Guild, the Newman Association and the Catholic University Students' Union.
An expert in canon law and liturgy, he went to Rome in 1971 to work at the Vatican, becoming secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 1975. He was made a cardinal in 1985, the same year he was appointed to the Congregation for Eastern Churches -- the office responsible for the world's Eastern-rite Catholics.
He retired in 1991 at age 67 for reasons of health.
He said in 1998 that for Christianity to take root in Asia, it must be inculturated and meaningful to local people.
"The Gospel cannot be proclaimed in a vacuum. Being the Word of Life, it addresses real life situations" such as poverty, disease, injustice, oppression of women and the abuse of the environment, he had said.