The archbishop of Dhaka is in Rome for the "ad limina visit". Pope Francis' trip to Bangladesh was "an opportunity to confirm the culture" of respect and harmony between religions. Christians, Muslims and Hindus hold monthly meetings to "pray together". Caritas is helping the Rohingya. A new spiritual theology is needed for "the small flock", that is, minorities that contribute to the development of society and to the renewal of the Church.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – "The Church in Bangladesh is like a small flock. We are small in number, but we play a leading role," said Card Patrick D'Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka and Bangladesh’s first cardinal.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the prelate mentioned Pope Francis’s historic apostolic visit to Dhaka (30 November-2 December 2017), which was "an opportunity to confirm the culture of Bangladesh", and the changes it caused. "This culture is already permeated by harmony between the population and the faiths".
At the same time, the pope's presence "turned the spotlight on the value of Christians in society and given new impetus to our work," the cardinal said.
Although the number of Christians is small, "the contribution of the Catholic Church is felt in society through education in schools, the services offered in health facilities, but also credit unions.”
The latter “represent not only the most important form of low-interest loans in many communities, but also a way to create collaboration and solidarity between people. This is the value of the small flock whose contribution is great for everyone."
Bangladesh is a predominantly Islamic country. Over 90 per cent of the population is Muslim. Christians represent a small minority, about 600,000, including 380,000 Catholics (about 0.2 per cent of the population).
Since the pastoral visit, the work of Catholics has led to a new push in some areas, whilst in others it has continued on well-established paths. One of them is "Caritas's work assisting Rohingya Muslims in Cox's Bazar district.
"The Catholic charity is the fourth world association taking care of their needs and supporting them handle their difficulties. This is a huge commitment. Not only that, in every local Caritas office there are 50 to 250 volunteers working in various social domains.”
Among the characteristic aspects of Bengali culture seen during the visit was the harmony between religions. "Once a month, an interfaith meeting is held at local level across the region, wherever there is a parish or a Christian community, a Catholic school or an institute. People meet to pray and read together the sacred texts of every religion."
As for upcoming events, "in June we will have an interfaith meeting on the theme 'Open the door', that is, open the doors of respect towards everyone, as Pope Francis stressed during the visit.
“Previously, during Lent, we organised a day of reflection and prayer – which we couldn’t call 'Lenten Campaign' – during which people of every faith reflected in groups about the pope's message for Lent of the current year."
The pastoral visit also led to theological and spiritual reflections, in particular about the 'Theology of the little ones' or the 'Little flock'.
“In this regard, the Executive Committee of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) met last February to start the preparations for the association’s 50th anniversary in 2020. On this occasion I proposed that the theme be 'The little flock in Asia' ".
“Christians are a small minority,” D’Rozairo explained, “but not in the true sense of the word. For example, in Bangladesh we are few, but 95% of the faithful consistently practise the teachings of the Gospel, unlike Western countries, where Christians represent the majority of the population, but few practise."
For this reason, following the example of the Churches of Asia, "The Church [in Bangladesh] should always be small in the same way, but vibrant and enthusiastic in faith,” Card D'Rozario added.