ASIA/BANGLADESH - Pope Francis will discover the Bengali people: “simple, poor but strong”

Saturday, 25 November 2017 pope francis   islam   christianity   pastoral visit   poverty   mass media  

Dacca (Agenzia Fides) - “The Holy Father's visit is an opportunity to show the world the wealth of Bangladesh, where communities with different religions and social and cultural traditions live peacefully side by side”, Fides learned from Fr. Kamal Corraya, appointed by the local bishops as head of the Media Committee for the Visit of Pope Bergoglio, who will arrive in the capital Dacca early in the afternoon of Thursday 30 November, after his visit to Myanmar. Fr Corraya is originally from the Dacca district of Gazipur, where there is a considerable community of Catholics, more specifically at Holy Rosary Church Dacca, “Bangladesh’s first cathedral”, he explains, a building, which dates back to 1677, has been several times renovated, and preserves the tomb stones of the Portuguese missionaries. It is in this Holy Rosary Cathedral in the morning of Saturday 2 December, after a visit to the adjacent Mother Teresa’s Home in Tejgon, that Pope Francis will encounter “some two thousand faithful including priests, men and women religious consecrated persons, seminarians and novices ", before visiting the parish cemetery and addressing thousands of students at Notre Dame College. “At the College there will be a gathering of some ten thousand students from all corners of the country, of different cultures and religions: here lies the wealth of Bangladesh – says the priest– our country’s diversity and its people’s capacity to live side by side despite hardship and difficulties”.
“The Holy Father with his message of peace and harmony, will help us to appreciate better the rich cultural patrimony of our country, of which we are so proud, but which is so often obscured by stereotypes of poverty, extremism, natural disasters", Fr Corraya explains while workmen put the finishing touches to the flooring and another group arrange the flowerbeds. “We work to make our welcome the best possible. The local Church can provide only part of the necessary funds, the rest is coming from numerous donations from individual people many of them Muslims: within the Islamic community many people acknowledge the role of the Church especially in the area of education. And tje people value the Pope’s message ". In Bangladesh, Catholics represent a tiny minority: a small community of 370,000 according to government estimates in a population of some 170 million.
“The figure of the Holy Father became more familiar and appreciated following the disaster at the Rana Plaza”, textile workhouse building which collapsed in 2013, causing the death of more than one thousand people. On that occasion, Fr. Corraya explains, “Pope Francis spoke out against those who exploit the world's new slaves, referring to the workers involved, and this made an impression on our people, they felt his closeness”. Even in a Muslim majority country, there is consonance between the words of the Pope and the feelings of the people: “The message of the Pope is accessible to everyone. Simple but strong. This is how we Bengali are. Simple, poor, but strong, we know how to be happy with the little we have. People from rich countries often find our happiness incomprehensible. But it exists and it is ours. The visit of Pope Francis will help us consolidate our happiness and show it to the world”. (GB) (Agenzia Fides 25/11/2017)