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India’s first tribal cardinal dies at age 84

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo had been bed-ridden for some time because of age-related ailments

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi, 84, died on Oct. 4, Church officials announced

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi, 84, died on Oct. 4, Church officials announced. (photo: Wikipedia)

Published: October 04, 2023 12:03 PM GMT

Updated: October 05, 2023 07:56 AM GMT

Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo of Ranchi died of age-related ailments on Oct. 4, Church officials announced. He was 84.

Cardinal Toppo was ill and “bedridden for quite some time” and died at the Church-run Constant Lievens Hospital & Research Center in the archdiocese, said Ranchi Auxiliary Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas.

Catholics in the archdiocese “will ever be grateful to him for his immense contribution in the development of the Church of Chotanagpur,” Mascarenhas said in a note referring to the mission area that covered Bihar and Jharkhand states.

Ranchi is the capital of Jharkhand state. Bihar was bifurcated in 2000 to create Jharkhand, purportedly to accelerate tribal development. 

Toppo, who became a cardinal in 2003, was the first cardinal from the northern mission area and the first Indian tribal to become a member of the College of Cardinals.

The dates of his funeral and burial are yet to be confirmed. 

Toppo became Ranchi’s archbishop in 1984 and continued in the post until his resignation in 2018.

A polyglot, Toppo spoke Sadri, Oraon (mother tongues), Hindi, English and Italian.

Toppo was born in Chainpur, now in Jharkhand on Oct. 15, 1939, as the eighth of ten children in an Oraon tribal family.

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2 Comments on this Story
Once one becomes a Bishop and then elevated to a Cardinal, he loses his ethnicity. It's wrong to brand him "tribal" or similar attributes. He is a bishop, and especially cardinal for the whole Catholic community and not only for tribals. It is similar to President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister, etc. Will Draupadi Murmu, the current president cater only to tribals, just because she hails from that community?
Respectful farewell to His Eminence Cardinal Telesphore Placidus Toppo. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon the departed soul. In Paradisum Deducant te Angeli.

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