Thomas Cooray
Church positions
See Archdiocese of Colombo
Title Archbishop of Colombo
Period in office 1947 - 1976
Created cardinal February 21, 1998
Date of birth December 28, 1901
Place of birth Negombo, Ceylon
Date of death October 29, 1988
Place of death Colombo, Sri Lanka

Thomas Benjamin Cooray, OMI (December 28, 1901—October 29, 1988) was a Sri Lankan Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church who served as Archbishop of Colombo from 1947 to 1976, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1965.


Styles of
Thomas Cooray
CardinalCoA PioM
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
See Colombo (emeritus)

Thomas Cooray was born to a poor but religious family in Negombo, and attended St. Aloysius Seminary in Borella, and St. Joseph's College and University College in Colombo before going to Rome, where he studied at the Angelicum, obtaining a doctorate in philosophy summa cum laude. After entering the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, he was ordained to the priesthood on June 23, 1929. Finishing his Roman studies in 1931, he then did pastoral work in Colombo until 1945, whilst teaching at St. Joseph's College and serving as a university chaplain. He also became rector of the Oblate seminary in Sri Lanka.

On December 14, 1945, Cooray was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Colombo and Titular Archbishop of Preslavus by Pope Pius XII. He received his episcopal consecration on March 7, 1946 from Archbishop Leo Kierkels, with Bishops Edmund Peiris, OMI, and Bernardo Regno, OSB, serving as co-consecrators. Cooray succeeded the late Jean-Marie Masson, OMI, as Archbishop of Colombo on July 26, 1947, becoming the first local-born head of the see. During his tenure as Archbishop, he "favored a respectful dialogue with the Buddhists and with other Christians".[1] From 1962 to 1965, he attended the Second Vatican Council, at which he supported the Coetus Internationalis Patrum.[2]

Pope Paul VI created him Cardinal Priest of Santi Nereo e Achilleo in the consistory of February 22, 1965. Cooray, the first Sri Lankan member of the College of Cardinals, resigned as Colombo's archbishop on September 2, 1976, after a period of twenty-nine years. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the conclaves of August and October 1978, which selected Popes John Paul I and John Paul II respectively, and as yet the only Sri Lankan who has participated in the election of a Pope.

Whenever he came to his native town, he would visit his mother's grave.

Cooray died at age 86. He is buried in the crypt of the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka, whose completion he oversaw.[3]


  1. New York Times. Thomas B. Cooray, Cardinal, 86 November 1, 1988
  2. SSPXAsia. Some Historical Landmarks in the History of the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka
  3. St. Lucia's Cathedral

External links

Preceded by
Jean-Marie Masson, OMI
Archbishop of Colombo
Succeeded by
Nicholas Fernando
no:Thomas Benjamin Cooray

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