Spain’s King Juan Carlos bows in front of Pope Francis during a private audience at the Vatican on Monday. (Reuters)
Ranchi, April 28: Even the clouds rolled back to pave way for history on Sunday, said Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, who went all the way from Ranchi to watch two living pontiffs Francis and Benedict XVI canonising late John XXIII and John Paul II.
Cardinal Toppo (picture below), who watched the epoch-making ceremony, told The Telegraph from the Vatican: “The skies also looked ominous at one point yesterday. We were afraid it might rain, though in the end, even the heavens ensured the entire ceremony passed off peacefully. It was all God’s will.”
It is the first time that two popes have been made saints at the same time. It is also the first time two living popes were seen greeting each other at the altar of St Peter’s before jointly presiding over the double canonisation.
“It was sheer joy to be part of this historic moment where two Popes were declared saints,” said the Cardinal. “There were over a million spectators during the double canonisation yesterday and at today’s Thanksgiving Mass,” he added.
“There was gratitude on every face for being a part of history.”
There were a number of Indian faces in the crowd at St Peter’s Basilica to witness the historic event.
“Yes, among the Indian government’s contingent, I could spot Oscar Fernandes (Union road transport and highways minister) in the crowd. But the crowd was so thick that I could not move. Along with me were three other cardinals from India, Oswald Gracias from Mumbai, George Alencherry from Ernakulam and Cleemis Catholicos from Thiruvananthapuram,” Toppo said.
On the practical hitches, Toppo said telephone lines got jammed as everyone used their mobile phones simultaneously to relay the historic events to families and friends scattered across the globe.
But the Cardinal was quick to add that the magnitude of the event made these problems trifling.
“The presence of four papal greats, physically and in spirit, at the same time, has made Roman Catholic Church stronger than before. It strengthened the firm resolve of the church to take on present-day challenges and to serve people of all faiths and religions for everlasting peace on earth,” Toppo said.
He also recalled a personal anecdote.
“I was ordained priest in 1969 and never had the opportunity of meeting Pope John XXIII. But once, during my visit to the Vatican, I went to visit the archives where personal articles of Pope John XXIII are preserved. To my surprise, I saw a globe on which Ranchi was written in his own hand,” he said.
During Pope John Paul II’s tenure, Toppo said he became the archbishop of Ranchi in 1985 and cardinal in 2005.
“I had requested Pope John Paul II to visit Ranchi during his 1985 visit to India. He had kept the promise. Though he landed at Ranchi, the local administration did not allow him to enter the city due to security reasons. Undeterred, the Pope had a special Mass at Birsa Munda Airport before flying to Calcutta. That’s greatness,” the Cardinal said.