Cardinal Baselois Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum for Syro-Malankaras, was born on 15 June 1959 in Mukkoor, Malalapally, India. He entered the Infant Mary Minor Seminary, Tiruvalla, on 10 June 1976. He completed his philosophical and theological studies for the priesthood respectively at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Alwaye, and at the Pontifical Institute for Philosophy and Religion, Pune.
He was ordained a deacon on 22 March 1986 and a priest on the following 11 June. He continued to study theology at Dharmaram College, Bangolore, until 1988 and in 1997 earned a doctorate in ecumenism at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, Rome.
In India he was a parish priest in the diocese of Battery for Syro-Malankaras, first at St. Thomas’ Cathedral, and then of two parishes, Chethalaym and Moonnammile. He also served as secretary of the Presbyteral and Pastoral Councils and as a member of the Eparchial Council. After his appointment as Vice-Rector, then Rector of St. Thomas Minor Seminary, he served as Chancellor of Battery from 1997 to 1998 then, from 1998 to 2001, as Vicar General.
On 18 June 2001 he was appointed titular Bishop of Chaialum for Syro-Malankaras and Auxiliary of Trivandrum, as well as Apostolic Visitor for Malankara faithful resident in North America and in Europe. He received episcopal ordination on 15 August 2001.
On 23 October 2001 he went to New York as Apostolic Visitor and founded the Mar Ivanois, Malankara Catholic Center there. On 9 September 2003, he returned to India and two days later, 11 September 2003, was appointed Bishop of Tiruvalla for Syro-Malankaras. He took possession of his see on 2 October.
On 15 May 2006 Benedict XVI raised the Eparchy of Tiruvalla to the rank of Archeparchy and promoted him to the dignity of Archbishop.
On 8 February 2007 he was transferred to the Major Archdiocese of Trivandum for Syro-Malankaras – of which he took possession the following 5 March – and on 10 February, was raised to the rank of Major Archbishop. As such, he presided at the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church (and headed its commissions for Ecumenism, Dialogue and Youth).
He is a permanent member of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and of the Federation of Bishops’ Conferences of Asia.
He is President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) since February 2014. (First Vice-President, 2010-2013).
In October 2012 he partecipated in the XIII General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization.
He participated in the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2014) on The Pastoral Challenges of the Family in the Context of Evangelization and in the XIV Ordinary General Assembly on The Vocation and Mission of the Family in the Church and Contemporary World (October 2015).
Cardinal Thottunkal is the first Cardinal of the Syro-Malankara Church.
He participated in the conclave of March 2013, which elected Pope Francis.
Created and proclaimed Cardinal by Benedict XVI in the consistory of 24 November 2012, of the Title of San Gregorio VII (Saint Gregory VII).
- Dicasteries: for the Oriental Churches; for Inter-religious Dialogue.