Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo at Loyola ground in Ranchi on Wednesday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Orphans, rag-pickers, beggars and the homeless flocked to Loyola ground on Purulia Road in droves on Wednesday to enjoy a free meal.
On Boxing Day, Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo served lunch to the poor and impoverished, expressing his wish to host more such charity luncheons.
Early on Wednesday, the Cardinal had left for Holy Family Hospital at Mandar in Ranchi district, some 30km from the state capital, to bless the sisters and to thank them for their service to the poor and the needy. While returning, a road blockade set up by villagers to protest an accident near Brambay forced him to take a detour that delayed his arrival at Loyola Grounds by over an hour.
By the time the Cardinal reached, the venue was teeming with people, who had started pouring in at 1pm.
Before serving the food — a modest spread of rice, dal, mixed vegetables, tomato chutney and papad — Toppo blessed it. “O Lord, bless this food. Bless the poor and impoverished assembled here. You are the source of all inspiration. Allow us to feel your love and your existence,” the Cardinal said as half a dozen cooks continued to prepare food.
Blessings over, Cardinal Toppo began serving rice from a large bowl carried by nuns and activists from Vincent De Paul Society while other volunteers offered dal, chutney, vegetable and papad.
“Let this not be one-day-in-a-year affair. It is my desire to set up specialised institutions for the orphans and for children of the poor and impoverished, who do not have the required means, so that they can be given the means to stand on their own feet one day,” the Cardinal stressed.
Toppo also reminded that Jesus chose to be born in a manger, despite the chilling cold, so that he could be near the poor and the needy. “He could have been born in a rich family. But that would have enabled only the rich to come close to him to the complete exclusion of the poor. By serving food to the poor and the impoverished, we continue to search for Jesus in every one,” the Cardinal explained.
He again referred to the gang rape and brutal assault of a 23-year-old student in Delhi to underscore degeneration of human values in present-day society.
“These are troubled times. Countries are legalising abortion and killing the unborn in the mother’s womb. Women and girls are no longer safe. The gruesome Delhi incident is a slur on humanity. Let us understand the meaning of life, love and humanity,” the Cardinal added.