Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo
Ranchi, March 3: The seat of the Pope or the Holy See is vacant at Vatican City after Benedict XVI’s abdication, but won’t be for long, as the first round of pre-poll talks among 115 Cardinals will start on Wednesday.
The talks will pave the way for the College of Cardinals to elect the new global leader of Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo told The Telegraph from Vatican City.
Toppo, also Archbishop of Ranchi, is among the 115 Cardinals globally eligible to cast their votes.
Though it would have been unworthy to ask the Cardinal to speculate on the next Pope, the western media, playing pollster, is bandying about several well-known names ahead of the papal election.
Some of the frontrunners include Cardinal Marc Ouellet of Canada, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson of Ghana, Cardinal Leonardo Sandri of Argentina and Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi of Italy.
“I have received an invitation from the dean of College of Cardinals saying that the pre-conclave general congregation will commence tomorrow (Monday) morning. The talks will be spread over two sessions, one in the morning and the second in the afternoon,” Cardinal Toppo said.
Toppo said normally when a Pope dies in office, as has been the case over the past 600 years, the start of the conclave to elect a successor is preceded by 15 days of mourning.
“This time, the situation is quite out of the ordinary. An existing Pope has chosen to vacate office in the interests of the Church on grounds of failing strength. So, as there is no mourning period, the Cardinals will take a decision on when to hold a conclave to elect a new Pope,” Toppo said.
During this intercession — known officially as Sede Vacante or Vacant See or the period between popes — governance of Roman Catholic Church vested with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the camerlengo or chamberlain.
Right now, Toppo is preparing for his ballot test with prayers. “Every Cardinal is on his own now. I am staying at the nunnery run by the Sisters of Nazareth, which is where I usually stay at Vatican City. I am immersing myself in prayers,” Toppo said.
On Monday, he will be well in time for the congregation at 9.30am, 2pm IST, at the Bishop’s Hall, Vatican City, for the first round of talks. The second will be in the afternoon. But the date and time of the formal conclave to elect the 266th Pope has not yet been decided, Toppo stressed.
Benedict XVI, who stepped down from papacy on February 28, will be known as Pope Emeritus and will lead a life of seclusion, pledging “unconditional reverence and obedience” to his successor. At present, he is staying at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo for a two-month stay, before he returns to a Vatican convent.