Dhaka (Agenzia Fides) - "I would ask you to show ever greater pastoral closeness to the lay faithful". This is the request that Pope Francis addressed to the Bishops of Bangladesh in his meeting with them in Dhaka, in the Home for Retired Priests, on the afternoon of December 1st. Pope Francis invited the Bangladesh episcopate to promote the effective participation of the laity "in the life of your particular Churches, not least through the canonical structures that provide for their voices to be heard and their experiences acknowledged. Recognize and value the charisms of lay men and women", the Pope added "and encourage them to put their gifts at the service of the Church and of society as a whole". The Bishop of Rome referred in particular to "the many dedicated catechists in this country, whose apostolate is essential for the growth of the faith and for the Christian formation of the next generation. They are true missionaries and leaders of prayer, especially in the more remote areas".
In his speech, Pope Francis acknowledged that "Bangladesh has been blessed with vocations to the priesthood and the religious life", urging the Bishops to "ensure that candidates be well-prepared to communicate the richness of the faith to others, particularly to their own contemporaries" . The Successor of Peter also recalled "the social activity of the Church in Bangladesh is directed to assisting families and, in a specific way, working for the advancement of women". Referring to the preferential option for those in greatest need, Pope Francis emphasized that "the Catholic community in Bangladesh can be proud of its history of service to the poor, especially in remote areas and tribal communities; it continues this outreach daily through its educational apostolates, its hospitals, clinics and health centres, and the variety of its organized charitable works. Yet, especially in light of the present refugee crisis, we see how much more needs to be done!". Moreover, Pope Bergoglio has also invited the Church to continue its commitment in favor of interreligious understanding through seminars and didactic programs, as well as through personal contacts and invitations, contributing to the spread of goodwill and harmony. "When religious leaders speak out with one voice against the violence that parades as religion and seek to replace the culture of conflict with the culture of encounter", the Pope remarked, "they draw from the deepest spiritual roots of their various traditions". (GV) (Agenzia Fides 1/12/2017)