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Pope Francis expresses appreciation for Bangladesh; Card. Patrick D’Rozario

Vatican City: May 10, 2017. (Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has expressed his appreciation for the people and Catholics of Bangladesh who regard the appointment of the country’s first cardinal as a blessing. “I expressed all the feelings and joys of the people of Bangladesh and the Catholic community, and the blessings they have received through this appointment,” Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Bangladesh told Vatican Radio, referring to his private meeting with Pope Francis on May 5. “I communicated it to him and he really liked it, and he also saw the much deeper meaning… of the appointment he has made,” the Archbishop of Dhaka said on the sidelines of a Mass and felicitation programme organized on May 7 by Bangladesh’s Catholic community of Rome, at the Parish of Santa Maria Maggiore in San Vito.

The 73-year old cardinal is in Rome for a formality to take possession of a titular church in the city on Saturday, May 13. The Pope traditionally assigns to cardinals parish churches of his Diocese of Rome. However, the cardinals are not personally responsible for the pastoral care of the faithful of their titular churches.

When the Pope made Archbishop D’Rozario a cardinal at the consistory of Nov. 19, 2016, in the Vatican, the 73-year old prelate became Bangladesh’s first ever cardinal and the first cardinal from among the Bengali-speaking people who are on either side of the divided Bengal, inhabiting Bangladesh and India’s West Bengal state.

Card. D’Rozario presented Pope Francis a ‘nakshikantha’, a traditional quilt embroidered in centuries-old Bengali art. He said he requested the Pope to ‘come to Bangladesh’ and that all were waiting for him there, but he said, “he could not give a specific date due to technical reasons.”

Pope Francis first hinted about a possible visit to India and Bangladesh in 2017 during and in-flight press conference on October 02, 2016, while returning from a visit to Azerbaijan. That was a week before he announced the 17 new cardinals from around the world, among them the Archbishop of Dhaka. Again in an interview to German weekly Die Zeit in March, the Pope spoke about his visit to India and India, without giving dates. However, Card. D’Rozario told reporters that given the weather conditions of Bangladesh, October-November would be ideal for a papal visit.

Card. D’Rozario earlier served as Bishop of Rajshahi from 1990 to ’95, and then Bishop of Chittagong from 1995 to 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Coadjutor Archbishop of Dhaka. He succeeded as Archbishop of Dhaka the following year. Since December 2011 he has been president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (CBCP), and in that capacity he participated in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family in October 2014.

With over 86% of its estimated 156 million population (2016) adhering to Islam, Bangladesh is home to the world’s 4th largest Muslim population after Indonesia, Pakistan and India. Around 10% is Hindu, and Christians and Buddhists make up less than 1 percent each of the population