REUTERS - Roman Catholic cardinals entered a secret conclave on Tuesday to elect the Church's 266th pontiff and a successor to Benedict, who abdicated unexpectedly last month.
Following are key facts about the five Indians among the 115 cardinal electors choosing a new pope.
The major archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamally was born in Thuruthy, Kerala in 1945. Alencherry was ordained a priest in 1972 and earned a doctorate in biblical theology from the Sorbonne. He was appointed the bishop of Thuckalay diocese in 1996 and was proclaimed cardinal by Benedict in February 2012. Alencherry is the spiritual leader of the Syro-Malabar church.
The prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples was born in Mumbai in 1936. Dias was ordained a priest in 1958 and holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. He entered the Vatican's diplomatic service in 1964 and was posted to regions including the Nordic, Indonesia and Malaysia. Dias was appointed archbishop of Bombay in 1996 and proclaimed cardinal by John Paul II in 2001.
The archbishop of Bombay was born in Mumbai on Christmas eve in 1944. He was ordained a priest in 1970 and holds a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome and a diploma in jurisprudence from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Gracias was appointed archbishop of Agra in 2000, of Bombay in 2006 and was proclaimed cardinal by Benedict in 2007.
The archbishop of Ranchi was born in Chainpur in 1939. He was ordained a priest in 1969. Toppo holds a post-graduate degree in history from Ranchi university and studied theology at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome. He became the bishop of Dumka in 1978 and was appointed archbishop of Ranchi in 1985. Toppo received a state government award in 2002 for social work in Jharkhand. He was proclaimed cardinal by John Paul II in 2003.
The major archbishop of Trivandrum was born in Mukkoor, Kerala in 1959 and was ordained a priest in 1986. Thottunkal earned a doctorate in ecumenism at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 1997. He was elected as major archbishop of the Syro-Malankara Catholic church in 2007 and proclaimed cardinal by Benedict in 2012. Thottunkal is the first from the Syro-Malankara church to become cardinal and is currently the youngest member of the college of cardinals.
Compiled by Tony Tharakan