Cardinal Thomas Benjamin Cooray, was born on December 28, 1901 to a poor family in Negombo, Sri Lanka. In 1925, he entered the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. He was later sent to Rome for studies. At the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas he obtained a doctorate in philosophy. On June 23, 1929, he was ordained to the priesthood.
In 1931, he returned to Sri Lanka. From then until 1945 he was involved in pastoral and missionary work. He taught at St. Joseph’s College, and finally became rector of the Oblate seminary in Sri Lanka.
On December 14, 1945, Thomas Benjamin Cooray was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Colombo, and, on March 7, 1946, he was ordained a bishop. In 1947 Archbishop Cooray succeeded the late Jean-Marie Masson, O.M.I. (1876-1947), as Archbishop of Colombo. He was the first local-born Archbishop of Colombo.
From 1962 to 1965, Archbishop Cooray was honored to be one of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) created him a Cardinal on February 22, 1965. Here, too, Cardinal Cooray became the first Sri Lankan to have the title of cardinal. He took part in the two conclaves of 1978.
On September 2, 1976, he resigned as archbishop of Colombo. Cardinal Cooray died at age 86, on October 29, 1988. He is buried in the Basilica of Our Lady of Lanka in Colombo.
The “nihil obstat” from the Vatican for the Cause of his Beatification was granted in 2010.