Cardinal Toppo addresses the faithful at St Mary’s Cathedral in Ranchi on Easter Sunday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Easter spelt the start of a two-week-long sojourn for Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo who left for Israel on Sunday.
From Jerusalem, he will travel to the Vatican to witness the canonisation of two former pontiffs — Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII — on April 27.
“At Jerusalem, I will be attending a series of meetings with select archbishops and Cardinals from across Asia. I shall reach Rome on April 26. The two Popes will be cannonised the next day. I will return to Ranchi on May 3,” Cardinal Toppo told The Telegraph before leaving the Archbishop House in the state capital.
The visit to Rome this time, however, is not a mere journey for the Cardinal. “Going to Vatican to be a part of the ceremony where Pope John Paul II will be conferred sainthood by Pope Francis is like a pilgrimage for me,” he added.
Karol Jozef Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978, and held the post till his demise on April 2, 2005.
“In 1979, during my visit to the Vatican, I got an opportunity to meet him. During our brief encounter, I told Pope John Paul II that my mother, Sophia, had the habit of muttering a short prayer for him. The pontiff, who had just lost his mother, was so moved that he immediately summoned his secretary and asked to get a memento for my mother. After I returned to Ranchi, I had handed over the Pope’s gift to her and she was overwhelmed,” Toppo said.
Recalling a few more fond memories of Pope John Paul II, the Cardinal said he had invited the pontiff to visit Ranchi in 1985 after he was made the archbishop. “He kept my request and flew down to Ranchi on February 3, 1986. Though he was not allowed to enter the city by the district administration for security reasons, the pontiff held a special mass on the airport grounds,” he added.
The Pope had also got the pallium for Cardinal. The pallium is a band worn around the neck by all archbishops and is usually given to them at a ceremony at the Vatican. “However, the pontiff made an exception for me and brought the pallium to Ranchi. How can I ever forget him?” Toppo couldn’t hide his emotions.
Pope John XXIII will also be declared saint on the same day. He was a pontiff from October 28, 1958, to June 3, 1963.
Before leaving, the Cardinal led the Easter Sunday mass at St Mary’s Cathedral at 6am sharp. He had also led the Saturday night mass on Loyola grounds.