A brief letter and a book, Salt of the Earth, both written by Joseph Ratzinger, the newly elected Pontiff, are two treasures which a priest in Kerala holds close to his heart.
A copy of the book was gifted to Father Antony Thampy Thaikootathil, presently vice-chancellor of the Cochin Diocese and director of the diocese-run Human Resource Development Centre, by Ratzinger in 1998 when Father Antony took the 'Dicaconate', a ceremony to become a priest at the Collegium of Carnisianum, in Austria.
The book was accompanied by a hand-written letter in German saying, "All the best. Be a good Catholic."
"The book and the letter are my treasures," Father Antony told PTI.
Father Antony studied philosophy and theology in Austria and used to visit Germany and Rome during vacation. It was during one such visit in 1995 that he met Cardinal Ratzinger at a dinner.
They met several times after that. Cardinal would often speak at length about the Catholic dogmas and enquire about church activities in Kerala, he said.
When Father Thomas mustered the courage to ask him about his conservative views, he had replied, "I am conservative for our Church."
They had last met in November last year in Rome.
Describing the new Pope as a "simple, dignified and royal" person, he said the new Pontiff "lives for his ideals and faith."