Cardinal Telesphore P Toppo
Ranchi, March 15: Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, in his first private audience with Pope Francis at Vatican City today after papal poll results, said the newly-elect pontiff made him feel immediately at home with a cheerful exchange of good morning greetings.
“I met Pope Francis at Santa Marta, inside the Vatican. ‘Good morning, holy father’, I said, to which he replied ‘good morning, holy son’,” Toppo said, bursting into laughter over the telephone.
The reason for the chuckle became evident when Toppo added he had shared a personal equation with Pope Francis over the years.
“We have been friends for a long time. During one of my earlier visits to the Vatican, and in course of an important meeting of the Synod, he had been impressed when I intervened in a discussion in which he was taking part. Over the years, we have met off and on at the Vatican,” he said.
The bond has deepened as Toppo is an alumnus of a Jesuit institution, St Xavier’s College, Ranchi. Pope Francis is the first Jesuit priest to be elected to lead the 1.2 billion-strong Catholic community.
“He is a simple man. He makes you feel at home immediately,” Toppo said.
On the details of his conversation with the Pope today, he said: “I can’t divulge them. But there will be another round of talks with him tomorrow morning.”
On the first papal meeting with the College of Cardinals at Clementine Hall, Vatican City, Toppo said: “The Pope urged elderly Cardinals to share their wisdom with the younger generation.”
When asked if he had invited the Pope to visit Ranchi, Cardinal Toppo gave an indirect answer that spoke volumes. “As Pope Francis hails from Latin America, he will be naturally interested in visiting Asia and India,” he said.
Toppo said he, other Cardinals, and the Pope were staying at Santa Marta, a “hotel-style residence” inside Vatican walls built by Pope John Paul II. “It is an experience to pray as well as have breakfast, lunch and dinner together with the Pope,” he added.