Archbishop Toppo Would Be India's First Tribal Cardinal

Sees Honor as Recognition of Church’s Growth in the Subcontinent

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NEW DELHI, India, OCT. 5, 2003 ( The Pope’s recent appointment of Archbishop Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi as one of 31 new cardinals will give the Church its first tribal cardinal of India.

“Our God is a God of surprises,” the archbishop told SAR News last week. “My nomination as a cardinal of the Catholic Church has come to me and many others as a surprise, because I am the most unworthy person for such a high dignity and office.”

The cardinal-designate termed his nomination as a “mark of distinction for the tribal Church in India and recognition of its growth.”

“We can only thank God for the growth of the Church,” he said. “God willed that I should be the first tribal priest to become a bishop, and now he wills that I should be the first tribal bishop to become the first tribal cardinal. Praise the Lord.”

Archbishop Toppo continued: “Along with Jeremiah, I say: ‘I am young.’ We are taught to take up any responsibility whenever we are asked to do so. It is in that spirit that I obey the will of our Holy Father. It is the holy will of God and I accept it in that spirit.”

Born on Oct. 15, 1939, Telesphore Toppo was ordained a priest in May 1969. He was installed as bishop of Dumka in 1978 and as archbishop of Ranchi (now in Jharkhand state) in August 1985.

The Ranchi mission had its origin in the evangelization work started by the Belgian Jesuit Father Auguste Stockman who traveled from Midnapur to Chaibassa in 1868 by a bullock cart. He moved to Ranchi in 1875. The mission flourished with the arrival of Father Constant Lievens in 1885.

Ranchi was separated from the Calcutta Archdiocese and made into a diocese in 1927. In due course, several dioceses were created out of the Archdiocese of Ranchi. Now, Ranchi has eight suffragan dioceses under it, with a Catholic population of 120,000.

John Paul II announced 31 new cardinals on Sept. 28, including one whose name he kept secret.

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