Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo
For the second time in seven years, Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo will travel from Ranchi to Rome to play his part in making history — electing a new Pope.
The Cardinal will leave Ranchi for New Delhi on February 26, Tuesday, to catch a flight to Rome.
He will reach Vatican City the following day, Wednesday, around 9am, where he hopes to catch Pope Benedict’s last scheduled general audience at 10.30am at the historic St Peter’s Square, a massive plaza located directly before St Peter’s Basilica.
The Cardinal was there in the April 2005 as a part of the conclave that elected then Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger to papacy, who then became known worldwide as Pope Benedict XVI.
Pope Benedict, then 78, had replaced deceased Pope John Paul II. Now aged 85, he cited failing health when he recently announced his abdication, becoming the first Pope to do so in centuries.
“The April 2005 conclave took just two days to elect a new Pope. I will be there once again to elect a new Pope in 2013 though under completely new circumstances when an existing Pontiff chose to be nearer to God, renouncing the high papal office,” Cardinal Toppo, who took time off from his hectic schedule to talk to The Telegraph.
It is evident that Cardinal Toppo wants to reach the historic St Peter’s Square in time for Pope Benedict last general audience at 10.30am on Wednesday but he is also aware that he is running a tight travel itinerary.
“Travel from the airport to the convent at the Vatican where I am staying and again to St Peter’s Square will take a lot of time. I am not sure if I can be on time for the pontiff’s last general audience, though I fervently hope I can,” the affable Cardinal said.
The Pope is supposed to meet all the Cardinals at Clementine Hall of the Apostolic Palace near St Peter’s Basilica on February 28.
“I shall be at the hall well before 11am to wait for the Pope who will personally greet all the Cardinals assembled there, say thank you and goodbye,” Toppo said.
When asked what would follow once Pope Benedict ceases to be the pontiff on February 28, Toppo said: “I am still bewildered. I do not know what to say or what is to be said. But once the pontiff leaves the Vatican on February 28, the College Of Cardinals will take over and do whatever is to be done.”
India has seven living Cardinals — Duraiswamy Simon Lourdusamy, Prefect Emeritus of the Oriental Churches, Simon I. Pimenta, Archbishop Emeritus of Bombay, Ivan Dias, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation of Evangelisation of Peoples, Telesphore P. Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam and Baselios Cleemis, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum.
Of these, only four Cardinals who are below the age of 80 — Toppo, Gracias, Alencherry and Cleemis — will be eligible to vote in the conclave to elect Pope Benedict’s successor.