Chittagong (Agenzia Fides) - The Catholic community of Chittagong, Archdiocese in Southeast Bangladesh, will live a special "Year of the Mission" in 2018, to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the Gospel in the country and to celebrate the Jubilee year. As reported to Agenzia Fides, by the local Church, the Year of the Mission involves the 11 parishes of the diocese, where initiatives of prayer, catechesis, charity are organized "to celebrate faith and bring a joyous proclamation to those who do not know Christ", reads a note sent to Fides.
The faithful remember the contribution of the first missionaries, Fr. Francisco Fernandez and Fr. Dominic D'Souza, the first to settle in the area of Chittagong in the late 1500s, while in five centuries "our Church has been blessed with the service of 18 Bishops, hundreds of men and women of 27 religious orders and many lay missionaries and catechists", recalls Archbishop Moses Costa. In the history of the local Church there are "over 600 Christians martyred in the seventeenth century" and today the faithful recall their experience, recognizing themselves "sons of that sacrifice". For the occasion Archbishop Costa wrote a pastoral letter to all the parishes, inviting the faithful "to renew their faith during the Year of the Mission" and indicating seven pastoral priorities: catechism and confirmation of faith, education and culture, organizational development, economic sustainability, health services and evangelization. "Our faith in Christ is God’s precious gift that reached us through the missionaries. We must welcome this legacy so that we can celebrate our wealth of faith and become a living, participatory and new Church", writes Archbishop Costa.
In these days the local Church recalls catechist Robi Christopher D'Costa as a brilliant example of missionary commitment, who died in his residence last January. D'Costa served as a catechist in Chittagong, dedicating himself to evangelization for 33 years, to the catechetical and biblical formation of the clergy, religious and laity, often going to isolated villages and remote areas.
Chittagong played a significant role in the blossoming of Christianity in Bangladesh. Here in 1517 Portuguese Christian traders and the first evangelizers of the Bay of Bengal landed. In 1845 the first Vicariate of East Bengal was created in Chittagong, while the diocese of Chittagong was created in 1950 and elevated to Archdiocese in 2017. Today, out of a population of 19.5 million, 30 thousand are Catholics, served by 22 priests, between diocesan and religious (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 27/2/2018)