Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo
Ranchi, March 10: For the first time in the history of Roman Catholic Church, as many as five Indian Cardinals will be among the 115 to vote in Vatican City to elect the new Pope on March 12, Ranchi’s Archbishop Telesphore P. Toppo being among them.
Earlier, only three Indian Cardinals took part in the 2005 conclave, including Toppo.
In 2005, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as Pope Benedict XVI after charismatic Pope John Paul II died. Pope Benedict made history by abdicating from papacy in February 2013 on grounds of ill heath, necessitating this March 2013 election to find his successor.
Toppo is the first tribal Cardinal from India who will now hold the distinction of voting in two papal elections.
Incidentally, Pope Benedict XVI, in one of his final administrative decisions on February 16, had renewed Cardinal Toppo’s term for another five years as a committee member of the Commission of Cardinals to supervise the work of Vatican bank, officially called Institute for the Works of Religion (IOR).
India, at present, has eight Cardinals, though only five, who are below the age of 80, are eligible to cast their vote on March 12 at Sistine Chapel, Vatican City.
Among the Indian voters are Ivan Dias (77), Prefect Emeritus, Congregation for Evangelisation of Peoples, who at 77 years, is the senior-most in the group.
Toppo, 73, is the second-oldest among the Indian Cardinals.
George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of Ernakulam and Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai, are both 68. Baselios Cleemis Thottunkal, Major Archbishop of Trivandrum, is a young 53.
In 2005, both Toppo and Dias voted at the papal election on April 18-19. The third was Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam.
The three Indian Cardinals who are too old to vote this year are Agostino Cacciavillan (86), President Emeritus Administration of Patrimony, Duraisamy Simon Lourdusamy (89), Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and 93-year-old Simon Ignatius Pimenta, Archbishop Emeritus of Mumbai.
Two Indian Cardinals — from Ernakulam and Calcutta — voted in the 1978 papal elections held in August and October, the second born out of tragedy.
In August 1978, Italy’s Cardinal Albino Luciani was elected as pontiff and took the name of Pope John Paul I, but died only a month into his papacy.
In October 1978, the Polish Cardinal, Karol Józef Wojtyla was elected and henceforth called Pope John Paul II.
For the August 1978 papal conclave, Cardinal Joseph Parecattil, Archbishop of Ernakulam, and Lawrence Trevor Picachy, Archbishop of Calcutta, voted to elect Pope John Paul I.
A third Cardinal, Valerian Gracias, who was the Archbishop of Mumbai, then Bombay, failed to go to the Vatican on account of illness.
After Pope John Paul I’s untimely death on September 28, 1978, both Parecattil and Picachy travelled again to Rome, Vatican City, to cast their votes at the conclave held from October 14 to 16, 1978.
Pope John Paul II served for almost 27 years till 2005.
“We are all praying for a successful completion of the March 2013 conclave at the Vatican to elect a successor to Pope Benedict. We will also hold a special mass here once the new Pope is chosen,” C.R. Prabhu, assistant bishop of Jamshedpur told The Telegraph.