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Cardinal says he’s surprised

Ranchi, Feb. 11: Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo (74) today expressed surprise at the sudden announcement that Pope Benedict XVI would step down on grounds of ill health.

“I am surprised at the sudden announcement by the Pope. Though the Canon Law contains provisions for the resignation by the Pope, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church, I never expected this to happen. There is no official communication from Rome and I have come to know of the developments from the Internet,” he said.

Toppo, who was busy preparing to welcome a high ranking Vatican official, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, to Ranchi tomorrow, added that he was not aware when a conclave would be held to elect a new Pope.

“Things will begin to unfold only after February 28 when the present Pontiff makes that rare move to step down. However, whenever a conclave is held, I would be invited to attend and cast my vote to elect a new Pope. As a Cardinal, I am entitled to vote,” Toppo told The Telegraph.

In 2005, Toppo was part of the conclave that elected then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope, following the demise of Pope John Paul II.

All Cardinals up to age of 80 are eligible to attend and vote to elect a new Pope.

For Toppo, the immediate concern was tomorrow’s visit of Filoni, who is prefect, Propaganda Fide.

“A number of programmes have been arranged in Ranchi and Khunti. I just hope he is not hastily summoned to Rome in the light of the developments,” Toppo said.

Cardinal Filoni slated to address seminarians tomorrow evening at St Albert’s College, Ranchi, one of the largest theological colleges run by the Roman Catholic Church in the country.

On Wednesday, the visiting cardinal is scheduled to lead the mass at Loyola Grounds, Ranchi at 7am. Later, he is supposed to be in Khunti to “bless” the composite university project, that includes setting up a 500-bed hospital and a medical college, before flying back to Delhi late in the evening.

Though the Church has not got all the land it needs, Cardinal Filoni has been invited to bless the project so that it is not delayed any further.