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Pope memory cast in metal

- Before sainthood in Vatican, a ceremony at a cathedral

Weeks before beloved Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) and Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) are declared saints at the Vatican in Rome, Ranchiís nearly 105-year-old St Maryís Cathedral witnessed a heartfelt ceremony on Sunday.

The ambassador of the Holy See to India, Salvatore Pennacchio blessed a nearly six-feet bronze statue of Pope John Paul II on Sunday at the Purulia Road address.

Ranchi-based cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, Mumbaiís archbishop Oswald Gracias and bishops and priests from across Jharkhand braved the inclement rain and statewide bandh to be present on the occasion.

The statue has been sent by the Vatican to Ranchi as a tribute to the legendary Pope who had visited the city in 1986.

Though Pope John Paul II landed at Birsa Munda Airport in Ranchi in 1986, he couldnít enter the city for security reasons. But, being the man of the people that he was, Pope John Paul held an open mass at the airport grounds for thousands before flying back to Calcutta.

ďPope John Paul II had a special love for the people of Ranchi and had come here on my request,Ē Cardinal Toppo told The Telegraph on Sunday.

He added he would be present at the Vatican on April 27.

Earlier, thousands of followers gathered for the holy mass at St Maryís Cathedral where papal envoy Pennacchio, cardinal Toppo and archbishop Gracias conducted the Sunday Mass. Heavy showers forced the Mass, to be held at Loyola grounds, to be shifted to St Maryís Cathedral.

The papal envoy reached Ranchi on March 1, Saturday, for the centenary celebrations of St Albertís College, one of the largest theological institutions in India under the Roman Catholic Church.