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Vatican duo laud papal courage

- Cardinals flag off theology hub centenary; mass today

Ranchi, Feb. 12: Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Propaganda Fide of the Holy See, today said only “kings and great men” such as Pope Benedict XVI could have the courage to step down.

“We are frail people. We do not have the courage to take such a significant leap. Only kings and great men like the present pontiff can display such courage to renounce the office of the Pope,” Cardinal Filoni, after landing in Ranchi in the afternoon, told The Telegraph in an exclusive interview.

Pope Benedict announced he would resign on February 28, making this the first papal voluntary abdication in 719 years.

“He displayed the rare courage to renounce worldly titles and give himself completely to God. He has been honest to himself and to God. Not many of us have the courage to admit, even deep in our hearts, that our physical strength is failing us,” the high-ranking Vatican visitor, who came with Salvatore Pennacchio, the ambassador of the Holy See to India, stressed.

While Filoni is based in Rome, Pennacchio, also known as the Apostolic Nuncio, is posted in New Delhi. Both flew in from New Delhi to kick off centenary celebrations of St Albert’s College, Ranchi, one of the largest theological colleges under the Roman Catholic Church in India.

From the airport, they went to St Mary’s Cathedral where they offered prayers. From there, they were brought to Archbishop House, Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo’s official residence, in an open jeep with thousands of schoolchildren lining up both sides of Purulia Road.

Inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the college, Cardinal Filoni stressed seminarians were chosen people and that they needed to display humility and dedication to be of service to the poor and downtrodden.

The duo and Cardinal Toppo will lead the holy mass at Loyola grounds early morning tomorrow.

Later, they are scheduled to go to Khunti to “bless” the composite university project, which includes setting up a 500-bed hospital and a medical college.

When asked if the papal abdication on grounds of ill health should be emulated throughout Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Filoni conceded few people could display the level of honesty, dedication and courage displayed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Cardinal Toppo, who yesterday said he was “surprised” at the developments, today added: “We accept in all humility the decision of the pontiff to step down.”


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