Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis met today with priests, religious, consecrated men and women, and seminarians at the Holy Rosary Church in Dhaka.
In his address, he told them that “The Catholic community in Bangladesh is small. But you are like the mustard seed that God brings to fruition in his own time. I rejoice to see how this seed is growing and to witness first-hand the deep faith which God has given you.”
"Mustard seed" is a fitting definition for a Church that represents 0.2 per cent of the population, but is now a well-structured community, with lots of vocations and missionaries who offer their service to the rest of the universal Church. With this background, they “also confirm me in faith and bring me great joy,” the pope said.
Several of ordained and consecrated people offered their testimony to the pontiff and about 1,500 people present: a priest, Abel D'Rozario, from Dhaka; a missionary, Fr Franco Cagnasso, PIME; a nun, Sr Mary Chandra, of the Order of Mary Queen of the Apostles; a religious, Fr Lawrence Dias of the Holy Cross; and a seminarian, Marcelius Tirkey.
When it came time to speak, Pope Francis put aside his written speech, and spoke without notes in Spanish, going beyond what was in his prepared text.
He said that vocations were seeds to be nurtured and tenderly cared for, with an eye on the devil who sows discord, whilst praying to distinguish the good seeds from the bad ones.
With this in mind, Francis called on bishops, priests, men and women religious, and seminarians to pay attention to the divisions caused by gossip, which is the enemy of harmony.
He ended by inviting them not to have "sad faces” when they encounter pain and hardships. “Seek peace and find joy,” he said.
The decision to hold the meeting at the Holy Rosary Church was not accidental. The original building dates back to the 17th century, and is one of the oldest churches in Bangladesh.
The name of the church inspired the pope’s speech dedicated to the Rosary. The latter “is a beautiful meditation on the mysteries of faith that are the lifeblood of the Church and a prayer that shapes our spiritual lives and our apostolic service. Whether we are priests, religious, consecrated men or women, seminarians or novices, the prayer of the rosary inspires us, in union with Mary, to give our lives completely to Christ. It invites us to share in Mary’s attentiveness to God at the annunciation, Christ’s compassion for all humanity as he hangs upon the cross, and the Church’s rejoicing as she receives the Risen Lord’s gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Turning to “Mary’s attentiveness”, Francis said, “I know that your pastoral work and your apostolates demand much of you, and that your days are often long and leave you tired. But we cannot bear Christ’s name, or share in his mission, unless we remain first and foremost men and women rooted in love, fired by love, through a personal encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist and the words of sacred Scripture. Father Abel, you reminded us of this when you spoke of the importance of fostering an intimate relationship with Jesus, for there we experience his mercy and find renewed strength for our service to others.”
As for the “Christ’s compassion” in the painful mysteries of the Rosary, the pontiff noted that “Priesthood and religious life are not a career. They are not a vehicle for personal advancement. They are a service, a share in Christ’s own sacrificial love for his flock.”
Citing the testimony of Fr Cagnasso, he added, “each of us is called to be a missionary, bringing Christ’s mercy and love to all, especially those on the peripheries of our society. I am especially grateful for the many ways in which so many of you are engaged in the areas of social outreach, health care and education, serving the needs of your local communities and of the many migrants and refugees coming to your country. Your service to the wider community, in particular to those most in need, is a precious service to the building of a culture of encounter and solidarity.”
“Lastly, the rosary fills us with joy in Christ’s triumph over death, his ascension to the right hand of the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our world. The whole of our ministry is directed to proclaiming the joy of the Gospel. In our lives and apostolates, we are all too aware of the problems of the world and the sufferings of humanity, but we never lose confidence in the power of Christ’s love to prevail over evil and the Prince of Lies who tries to deceive us. Never be discouraged by your own failures or by the challenges of ministry. If you remain attentive to the Lord in prayer and persevere in offering Christ’s compassion to your brothers and sisters, then the Lord will surely fill your hearts with the comforting joy of his Holy Spirit.”
At the end of the meeting the pope along with those present recited a prayer to Our Lady written for the occasion.
Earlier in the day, Francis visited the community of the Sisters of Mother Teresa, near the church of the Holy Rosary.