In the footsteps of John Paul

Diplomatic Correspondent
Wednesday, August 30th, 2017


Second papal visit to Bangladesh announced.


Green, red and yellow are national colors of Bangladesh and Vatican. The combination of these colors symbolizes the unity and lasting friendship between Bangladesh and Vatican, remembering the fact that Vatican was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh’s importance in 1971.


Pope Francis will arrive in Dhaka on a three-day state visit on November 30 carrying a message of ‘harmony and peace’ for all.


A papal visit is always historic for any nation, and this one  at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Catholic Archbishop of Dhaka Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, was officially announced in Dhaka and the Vatican simultaneously with the same sense of occasion on August 28.


“Detailed programme for the visit will be published shortly,” said Dean of Diplomatic Corps Ambassador of Vatican to Bangladesh Archbishop George Kocherry.


Ambassador Kocherry said two invitations, including one from the host government, is needed for the Pope to visit a country. President Abdul Hamid will receive Pope Francis upon his arrival and Bangladesh will show the highest respect to him during the visit.


The Dean of Diplomatic Corps in Dhaka made the announcement saying timings and venues of the Pope’s engagements in Dhaka will be shared later. Pope Francis will have meetings President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina among other engagements, including his participation in a youths gathering.


He will make an ‘apostolic visit’ to Myanmar from November 27 to 30 before coming to Dhaka. In Myanmar, he will visit the cities of Yangon and Nay Pyi Taw.


Ambassador Kocherry said the Vatican Embassy in Dhaka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the SSF (security) are working together to finalise his programmes in Dhaka. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and SSF are cooperating very well with us. I appreciate their readiness and supports.”


Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario said 80-year-old Pope Francis is coming to all people of the country. “We seek overall cooperation from all.”


He said Pope Francis is a voice of conscience for all political, economic, social and environmental issues in the world.


“He (Pope Francis) leads a very simple life. His love towards marginalized people, those who are suffering, who are weak, who are affected by disasters, migrants,” said Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario.


Previously, Bangladesh hosted Pope John Paul II, probably the most popular leader of the Catholic branch of Christianity, in 1986 for a state visit. Prior to that though, on November 26, 1970 Pope Paul VI insisted on stopping over in what was then the capital of East Pakistan on his way to Manila, even though it was only for an hour. It was in the aftrermath of the devastating cyclone earlier that month, one of the greatest natural disasters of the 20th century, that caused huge tidal surges killing thousands of people in the coastal areas.


“We’ve selected harmony and peace as theme of Pope Francis’s Bangladesh visit this time,” said Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario. As per the draft programmes, Pope Francis will place wreaths at the National Martyrs Memorial in Savar and will pay respect to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman placing wreaths at his portrait.


“We believe the visit will remain as an example of harmony and peace in Bangladesh,” Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario said.


Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry officials said Pope Francis will give an audience to Bangladesh’s Christian community.  An advanced team recently visited Bangladesh to coordinate the preparation of the ‘apostolic visit’ with the Protocol Wing of the Ministry.

Pope Francis appointed Patrick D’Rozario, the Archbishop of Bangladesh, as the first-ever cardinal from Bangladesh on November 19, 2016. He heads some 400,000 Catholics in the country, spread over seven dioceses.

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