Pope Francis is on a 2-nation apostolic visit to Asia next week. After visiting Myanmar, Nov. 27-30, he will move on to neighbouring Bangladesh, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. In both the countries the Catholic community is very small. While Myanmar is predominantly Buddhist, Bangladesh is mostly Muslim.
Catholics in Bangladesh number only some 350,000, or about 0.2 percent of a population of some 156 million that is around 90% Muslim. Hindus with 10 percent form the largest minority community in the country which has a secular constitution.
Well, how is the nation and the Catholic Church of Bangladesh preparing for the visit of Pope Francis? We put the question to Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka. The cardinal who is the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) spoke to us on the phone from the Bangladesh capital.
Card. D’Rozario said that preparations are going on well, Each of the country’s 8 dioceses will be sending a delegation of pilgrims to the papal events in Dhaka, especially at the Mass. The cardinal said the Church is preparing spiritually for the Pope’s visit. Every parish and family is praying. Small Christians Communities are preparing themselves with prayer services and Masses.
At the organizing level, Cardinal D’Rozario said there are 20 committees, 12 at the national level and 8 at diocesan levels. At the open-air Mass on Dec. 1, some 80,000 to 100,000 people are expected.
The cardinal said Christians are preparing themselves on the theme of “Harmony and Peace”, which is the motto of the Pope’s Bangladesh trip. The cardinal expressed the gratitude of the people to Pope Francis for giving them “preference and love” by visiting their “country in the periphery”.
The 74-year old cardinal also expressed his gratitude to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who along with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh took the initiative to invite the Holy Father to the country.