The Vatican (Thursday, November 9, 2017, Gaudium Press) Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Bangladesh regards Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the nation as a “blessing from God” that will be seen as a “pilgrimage of the Holy Father to the soul of the people.” For Bangladeshis, the visit will be a true and real experience of the Pope who will come in direct contact with the people, said the Archbishop of Dhaka.
The Vatican announced on August 28 that Pope Francis will make a two-nation apostolic visit to Asia. After visiting Myanmar, Nov 27 to 30, he will proceed to neighbouring Bangladesh, Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.
Pope’s contact with people
In his comments to AsiaNews, Bangladesh’s first cardinal said the papal visit will provide an opportunity to touch him, be with him, stand on the same ground. He said it is as if it is an answer to the urgent need of the country’s “small Christian flock” to experience the pope personally. His visit to the capital Dhaka is a concrete expression of his desire to “go to the peripheries” of the world.
With regard to Myanmar’s minority Rohingya Muslims seeking refuge in Bangladesh, he said that if the Pope speaks at all speaks about the issue, he will certainly appreciate Bangladesh’s role. However, he said nothing has been decided yet on whether he will meet refugees from Myanmar. The cardinal along with Archbishop Moses Costa of Chittagong, recently visited refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh.
Holy See-Bangladesh relations
Besides being the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, the Pope is also the head of state of Vatican City, hence his upcoming trip is also a state visit. Card. D’Rozario said the Vatican and Bangladesh established diplomatic relations within a year of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. Since then, relations have grown, based mainly on common human and spiritual values.
The 74-year old cardinal said that it was in the first half of 2016 that Prime Minister Sheik Hasina and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCP) formally invited the Pope to the country.
Hopes for Bangladesh
On the theme of harmony and peace of the papal visit, the Archbishop of Dhaka said that the Holy Father will stress its importance in different areas of national life.
According to him the visit will be a ”celebration of religious and cultural harmony, celebration of heritage of human and moral values, celebration of love of humanity which is open to all without limits and boundaries, celebration of the evangelical and human values that the poor of society have.” It will also be an occasion for the international community to hear the voice of voiceless through the Holy Father.
The cardinal pointed out that spiritual leaders are respected and honoured by all religions in Bangladesh. The Pope, he said, will be welcomed by Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, and everyone would consider it a blessing being able to see, touch and hear him speak. The cardinal said that popes are recognized as a voice of the conscience for the world.
Around 90 percent of Bangladesh’s some 163 million people are Muslim. Hindus make up 9 percent and Christians 0.3 percent, mostly Catholics.
Expectations of the Church
Cardinal D’Rozario hopes the visit of Pope Francis will reinforce and highlight the Church’s key mission of love and service. “Our expectations from the papal visit,” he said, “are: confirmation and recognition of the good things that we have, appreciation of what we are, a call to take care of the poor and the youth who are our dreams and hopes, an encouragement to work for integral human development and face the challenges of climate change, and a deepening of harmony in order to build peace in society. The Church of Bangladesh, the cardinal said, is preparing for the visit with prayers and spiritual exercises individually, in families and as communities. ”Our faith and Christian charity will be strengthened and our commitment to serve the country and its people will be renewed,” the cardinal said.
The Nov. 30-Dec. 2 visit is not the first papal visit to Bangladesh. St. Pope John Paul II visited the nation 31 years ago in November of 1986, as part of a 6-nation apostolic trip. Before that, Blessed Pope Paul VI had briefly stopped at Dacca (today Dhaka) airport on Nov. 27, 1970, when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan.