The Catholic Church in Bangladesh is working with different faith communities including the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other Christian denominations as part of its preparations to welcome Pope Francis when he visits the South Asian country from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2.
Speaking to Crux after Pope Francis' visit to Bangladesh was confirmed, Bishop Paul Ponen Kubi of Mymensingh remarked that the Church in his country is living "in harmony" with people from different cultures and religions. He said the upcoming papal visit will serve as a witness to that harmony and will also strengthen and encourage the faithful.
Pope Francis' visit to Bangladesh will bear the motto "Harmony and Peace." The organizers explained that the motto is a call for all "religions, cultures, peoples, society, history, heritage and traditions" to come together and live in peaceful co-existence.
The Catholic bishops' conference has also formed 10 multi-faith subcommittees in charge of greeting Pope Francis when he comes. The group of "Well-wishers," which is made up of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, have reportedly suggested the use of digital tools and social media to announce the upcoming papal visit and to broadcast the related events.
Before Pope Francis, two other popes have already gone to Bangladesh: Pope Paul VI in November 1970 and Pope John Paul II in November 1986. This year, the pontiff will be in Myanmar from Nov. 27 to 30 before his visit to Bangladesh.
In an interview with the Catholic News Agency, missionary priest Fr. Bernardo Cervellera said the papal visit in the two developing Asian nations will emphasize the role of coexistence over conflict in molding the future of the country. Pope Francis will also talk about the plight of the persecuted Rohingya Muslims who have nowhere to turn to after being turned away by Buddhist fundamental groups in both countries.
"So these people don't have a country, they are migrants in the full sense of the term, they have nowhere to lie their head," said Fr. Cervellera. "And so the Pope defends them, to let Christians and Muslims know that we need to help people not on the basis of their creed, or on the basis of their wealth, or their abilities, but simply because they are human beings."
In Bangladesh, Catholic Christians make up only less than 3 percent of the population. In Burma, they comprise less than 1 percent.