PANAJI: Cardinal Filipe Neri Ferrão, Archbishop of Goa and Daman and President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), who is attending the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Rome, has expressed deep sadness on the demise of Cardinal Telesphore Toppo (84) Archbishop Emeritus of Ranchi-Jharkhand on Wednesday.
In his condolence message sent from Rome and released by the Diocesan Centre for Social Communications Media, Cardinal Ferrão said: “It was with deep sadness that I received the news of the demise of our dear Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, which occurred earlier today. In his active pastoral ministry, he led the community of the faithful entrusted to his care with far-reaching vision and shepherdly concern.”
Telesphore Toppo was first tribal priest to be made Cardinal
“Elected twice as President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), he was also, for one term, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI). Coming from the Adivasi Church of Jharkhand, he was the first tribal of our country to be called to serve the Universal Church as a Cardinal.”
“His Eminence leaves behind memories of a caring, friendly and zealous pastor, especially to the poor and the marginalised members of his community, someone who was endowed with outstanding gifts of mind and heart and who led his people more by example than by word.”
“As I express, in my name and in the name of our Bishops’ Conference, our grief at his passing, I would like to send our heartfelt condolences to Archbishop Felix Toppo, his Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas and to the Church in the Archdiocese of Ranchi as well as to the members of the family of the deceased Cardinal. May his soul rest in peace,” stated Cardinal Ferrão.
According to the CCBI, Cardinal Toppo was a priest for 54 years, bishop for 44 years and a cardinal for 19 years. He was the Bishop of Dumka (1978-1984) and Archbishop of Ranchi (1985-2018). He was elected President of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) for two terms (2001–2004 and 2011–2013). He was the President of the CBCI (2004-2008).
Adivasi Church of Jharkhand
Pope St John Paul II honoured the thriving and blossoming Adivasi Church of Jharkhand by raising Archbishop Telesphore Toppo to the College of Cardinals on October 21, 2003. He was the first and only Asian tribal to have been accorded such a distinguished ecclesiastical office. He participated in the conclave of April 2005, which elected Pope Benedict XVI and in the conclave of March 2013, which elected Pope Francis.
He served as President Delegate of the 11th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2005), was a member of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organisational and Economic Affairs of the Holy See.
Pope Francis had named Cardinal Toppo as his Special Envoy to the XI Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) at Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2016. In 2002, he received the Jharkhand Ratan Award for distinguished social work done in Jharkhand.