Mgr Felix Toppo succeeds Card Telesphore P. Toppo, who headed the archdiocese for 34 years. The new archbishop will focus on education for children, young people and adults as well as support for tribal people and youth who leave school. He will pray for the fanatics who oppose Christians.
Ranchi (AsiaNews) – "I will work to strengthen everyone's faith,” said Mgr Felix Toppo, whom Pope Francis appointed yesterday as the new Archbishop of Ranchi, Jharkhand, replacing Mgr Telesphore P. Toppo, who resigned after 34 years at the head of the archdiocese.
"In Jharkhand the faith of Catholics and Christians in general is very strong,” Mgr Toppo said about the pastoral work that awaits him. “I will work for the spiritual care of the population, to improve their living conditions and, as much as possible, strengthen faith even more."
For Mgr Toppo, "it's still early to say what I'll actually do. It will depend on the needs of the population. Of course, I want to boost the right practice of faith, support children education, work with young people without neglecting adults. We will continue the spiritual preparation and the catechesis ".
"Only when I arrive in the diocese, will I be able to see the situation and define a specific programme". As for the installation, "there is nothing definitive,” he said.
The new archbishop has a long experience in vocational training and health care. He was born on 21 November 1947 in Tongo, in the Diocese of Gumla (Jharkhand). In 1968 he joined the Society of Jesus and in 1982 was ordained a priest.
He completed his education with a Master's Degree in psychology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and has worked with many Jesuit bodies, in the education of novices.
In 1997 he was named bishop of Jamshedpur (Jharkhand), about 130 km from the state capital of Ranchi, whose residents are mostly ethnic Hos, Mundas and Santhal.
Jharkhand is among the poorest States of the Indian Union. It is home mostly to poor and illiterate tribal groups, with high infant and child mortality rates.
In order to improve the living conditions of tribal communities, the prelate chairs the CBCI Society for Medical Education North India, an NGO of the Indian Catholic Church that has built a hospital for the poor and for tribal people.
The goal of the facility is to provide quality health services, with trained medical staff attentive to the needs and well-being of the marginalised.
Speaking about young people, to whom is dedicated the next Synod of Bishops on 3-28 October, the bishop said, "Most of them go to school or high school, but there are also many who leave school.”
“We must help them and understand what we can do for them. We can support them in finding work and even creating job opportunities. For example, we could engage all the parishes in this service."
However, "Some groups cause problems to Christians and are opposed to our presence,” Mgr Toppo lamented.
Last year, his predecessor, Card Toppo, was targeted by Hindu fanatics from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His image was burnt and pictures of the incident were posted online.
"We pray for them,” the prelate said. “We would also like to strengthen good [Hindu] practices, so that they [Hindus] understand that we are available for everyone, that we are not against anyone and that we want to live in peace, justice and peace with everyone. This is what we want and for which we will work."