The newly appointed Archbishop Leo Cornelio SVD was born on March 14, 1945 in Kukkunje, near the coastal city of Udupi in Karnataka to Late Mr. Valerian Cornelio and Mrs. Rose Cornelio. After completing his primary schooling in his native place, at the early age of thirteen he was recruited by a well known SVD German missionary, Fr. Peter Verhalen, and was admitted to Rajeshwar Vidhyalaya, Mhow in Madhya Pradesh. There he continued his studies from 1958 to 1962. These four years of studies in Hindi medium, helped him to be conversant in the national language. 

After completing two years in the juniorate of the Divine Word Society in Mhow where he studied Latin and other disciplines meant to integrate his life with spiritual and intellectual training, he joined the novitiate (1964-66) for spiritual and religious formation. After his first profession, he graduated in Philosophy and in Theology at the Papal Athenaeum, Pune in the year 1968 and 1972 respectively. After his philosophical studies, he was assigned to an Institute in Goa for an intensive year of training exposure. During this time, he helped in the construction of the SVD seminary and taught the students English and Mathematics.

Having made the Religious Profession on 11th June, he was ordained a priest in his native parish at Mount Rosary Church, Kallianpur on 14th November,1972 by the then Bishop of Mangalore, Bishop Basil S. D'Souza. Soon after his ordination, he joined Gyan Ashram, Mumbai to assist Fr. George Proksch SVD, a German missionary who made significant contribution to music, dance and Hindi writings. Later, he was assigned in Dahod, in Baroda Diocese where he worked for eleven years, first as teacher, then as the Vice Principal of St. Stephen's Higher Secondary School, and as assistant parish priest of St. Joseph's Parish. During this time, he actively involved himself in teaching, pastoral work, and youth activities.

While in Dahod, he obtained Master's degree in English literature from the State University and took up specialized studies in the field of Education.  After that he was appointed the Principal and Parish Priest in Dahod, where with his active involvement and polite behaviour, he endeared himself to the students and the public alike. In Dahod, to provide jobs to the unemployed youth, he also set up a technical school with five departments.

In June 1983 he travelled to Rome for a spiritual and theological course. On his return to India in 1984, he was elected as Provincial Superior of the SVD Central Indian province with its headquarters in Indore. Three years later, in 1987, he was re-elected to the same position.

In June 1988, at the SVD General Chapter held in Rome, he was elected a General Councillor. He served for two terms of six years each in that position.

As a General Councillor, he has travelled far and wide in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Caribbean Islands, South America, Africa, Asia as well as Europe, and has participated in many international meetings and conferences.

Besides being well acquainted with several Indian languages and English he is also proficient in Italian, Spanish, French, German and Indonesian. Almost towards the fag end of his second term as General Councillor, Pope John Paul II appointed him as Bishop of Khandwa Diocese. As a dedicated shepherd, he promoted spiritual renewal in the diocese as well as the educational and social development apostolate to a great extent.

In the year 2000, Pope John Paul II appointed him as a member of Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People; and in 2006 he was reappointed by Pope Benedict XVI for a second term for the same. He is also the chairman of the CBCI Commission for Youth and Chairperson of the Indian Catholic Youth Movement (ICYM) as well as of YCS/YSM, both at the national and Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh level. Besides, he is a member of the CBCI Commission for Social Communications and also the financial administrator for the Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh Regional Major Seminaries at Bhopal and Ashta.

On 15th June, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the new Archbishop of Bhopal.

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