Dhaka (Agenzia Fides) - "Pope Francis’ visit is a real blessing for us. Our faith will be strengthened. We look forward to seeing and listening to him. And above all to pray with him". Shuvro Purification is 18 years old, comes from Rajshahi, in the northwest of Bangladesh, a Muslim majority country. He is an aspiring friar of the Holy Cross Congregation in Dhaka, the capital. He is in class with twenty other confreres, waiting for the teacher’s arrival, friar Rosy, 30-years old, originally from Gazipur, with several years of study carried out in India. We are in the old part of Dhaka, within the complex which also houses the Catholic Church of St. Gregory, founded by the Benedictine missionary Gregory De Groote in 1882 and became, over the years, one of the most renowned educational institutions of the capital.
Since 1851, the Congregation of Propaganda Fide has entrusted the missionaries of the Holy Cross Congregation with the responsibility of the mission in Eastern Bengal and this is still today a highly respected community in Bangladesh.
Only a large courtyard divides the building of San Gregorio School from the building where the aspiring friars study. They are in their first year and are between 17 and 18 years of age, and come from every corner of the country, but there is one thing they have in common: the enthusiasm for Pope Francis’ visit. Shorob Costa is 17, he comes from Dhaka, and he says to Agenzia Fides that he is "so excited to the point that he cannot sleep at night". This morning he will attend the Mass that the Holy Father will celebrate in Suhrawardy Udian park, perhaps the most felt occasion by the Bangladeshi Catholics, who here represent a minority: 384,000 out of 170 million inhabitants.
It is expected that 100,000 people will attend Mass. Many have been preparing themselves for some time: "We have been working for weeks to prepare ourselves for Pope Francis’ visit, not only from a practical point of view, but also from a spiritual point of view", declares Brother Prodip Placid Gomes, Director of San Gregorio School to Agenzia Fides, recalling that "out of 3,500 students, 95% are not of Catholic faith, a sign of that harmony that the Holy Father will emphasize in his message". In order to attend Mass at Suhrawardy Udian Park and listen to the Holy Father's message, there was an exceptional mobilization from every corner of Bangladesh, as confirmed by the testimonies collected by Agenzia Fides. "There are those who took their holidays from work, just to have the opportunity to meet Pope Francis", said Damian Quiah after Mass at the Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary in Chittagong, a port city of 5 million inhabitants. "Many will reach the capital on their own. Some will take the train, the bus, some the plane simply to see the Holy Father and pray with him", he continues. "I cannot wait to welcome Pope Francis. I prayed a lot for him", says Sorna Dajel, a Catholic woman from Chittagong. "His visit will make us more united. And it will make inter-religious coexistence easier". (GB) (Agenzia Fides, 1/12/2017)