Bangladesh’s first Catholic cardinal says his nomination will enhance inter-faith harmony in the predominantly Muslim country where he has served for more than four decades, most recently as archbishop of Dhaka.
Pope Francis on Sunday named Archbishop Patrick D’Rozario, 73, and 16 other archbishops as new cardinals, at the end of a special Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. The new cardinals will formally be elevated at a meeting of the church’s College of Cardinals on Nov. 19, according to news reports.
D’Rozario heads the church in majority Sunni Muslim Bangladesh, where Christians form a tiny minority – less than half of 1 percent out of a total population of 160 million. The nation’s 400,000 Catholics dominate the Christian population, which numbers around 550,000, according to Bangladesh’s Christian Association.
Bangladesh has largely enjoyed inter-religious harmony during its 45 years as a nation, but Catholics, Christians and members of other religious minorities have been targeted since last year in sporadic acts of violence perpetrated by Muslim zealots.
“This is not my personal recognition, rather it is an achievement for all of Bangladesh,” D’Rozario told BenarNews, adding that Pope Francis was expected to visit the South Asian country next year.
“Bangladesh is a small country with few Christians … and far away from the Vatican, but we have been nurturing our long standing inter-religious harmony here for centuries,” he said.
‘A pinch of salt’
The rank of cardinal is the second highest in the Catholic church next to the pontiff. Because he is under 80 years old, D’Rozario, under the Vatican’s rules, will be allowed to participate in the College of Electors that will pick the pope’s future successor.
The new class includes another Asian, Msgr. Anthony Soter Fernandez, the emeritus archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s first-ever cardinal. But he is older than 80 and won’t be allowed to elect a new pope.
Archbishop D’Rozario said Christians in Bangladesh had been working as “salt” in Bangladeshi society.
“For instance, you need a pinch of salt in a big plate of rice, but you will not get the taste without it. You do not need to be big always. My nomination as cardinal is papal recognition that we may be small but not a trifle,” D’Rozario said.
In the face-to-face interview in Dhaka on Tuesday, the soon-to-cardinal spelled out the contributions that Catholics and Christians had made to Bangladesh.
“We Christians have been contributing to Bangladesh’s development process through setting up schools, hospitals and other service-oriented entities for all faiths,” he said.
D’Rozario pointed out that 90 percent of the students at Catholic missionary schools nationwide represent different faiths, and these schools have earned great recognition.
“Every guardian wants their children to get admitted to our schools, which teach children to develop and practice mutual respect, human values and tolerance. For example, we enroll 50 percent of students at the Notre Dame College in Dhaka from rural areas. The mixture of students from the indigenous communities, minority faiths and well-off families helps create the culture of tolerance and mutual respect among the students,” he said.
Full story: BenarNews
Kamran Reza Chowdhury
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