12/01/2017, 12.16
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Pope in Bangladesh: Build a church of harmony and 'bridge' to other faiths

Meeting with the bishops of the country, Francis recommends the care of priests and lay people, especially families and young people. Catechists "are real missionaries and prayer guides, especially in the most remote areas. Be attentive to their spiritual needs and their constant formation in faith. "

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - The Bangladeshi Church must continue to build bridges and promote dialogue with other religions in the country to promote "harmony." And "when religious leaders speak out with one voice against the violence that parades as religion and seek to replace the culture of conflict with the culture of encounter, they draw from the deepest spiritual roots of their various traditions." It is one of the tasks that Pope Francis has entrusted to the bishops of the country, whom he met in the cathedral of Dhaka, which is part of the archbishopric complex, where he arrived at 4 pm local time, after receiving the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Shekh Hasina.

In the home for elderly priests which is also part of the cathedral complex, he spoke to Bangladesh's  10 bishops recommending in particular the care of priests and lay people, especially families and young people.

In his speech, the Pope first praised the spirit of communion existing among bishops and priests of the country. "Your own episcopal leadership has traditionally been marked by a spirit of collegiality and mutual support.   This spirit of affective collegiality is shared by your priests, and through them, has spread to the parishes, communities and manifold apostolates of your local Churches.  It finds expression in the seriousness with which you, in your dioceses, engage in pastoral visitations and demonstrate practical concern for the welfare of your people.  I ask you to persevere in this ministry of presence, which can only strengthen the bonds of communion uniting you to your priests, who are your brothers, sons and co-workers in the Lord’s vineyard, and to the men and women religious who make so crucial a contribution to Catholic life in this country".

"At the same time, I would ask you to show ever greater pastoral closeness to the lay faithful.  There is a need to promote their effective participation in the life of your particular Churches, not least through the canonical structures that provide for their voices to be heard and their experiences acknowledged.  Recognize and value the charisms of lay men and women, and encourage them to put their gifts at the service of the Church and of society as a whole.  I think here of the many dedicated catechists in this country, whose apostolate is essential for the growth of the faith and for the Christian formation of the next generation.  They are true missionaries and leaders of prayer, especially in the more remote areas.  Be concerned for their spiritual needs and for their continuing education in the faith."

"In these months of preparation for the next assembly of the Synod of Bishops, all of us are challenged to think about how best to share with our young people the joy, the truth and the beauty of our faith."

The Pope then recalled the commitment of the Bangladeshi Church to assist families and specifically to engage in women's promotion. "The people of this country are known for their love of family, their sense of hospitality, the respect they show to parents and grandparents, and the care they give to the aged, the infirm and the vulnerable.  These values are confirmed and elevated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ".

"Significant" is also the goal set out in the Pastoral Plan of 1985 - "and that has indeed proved to be prophetic" - of the option for the poor. "The Catholic community in Bangladesh can be proud of its history of service to the poor, especially in remote areas and tribal communities; it continues this outreach daily through its educational apostolates, its hospitals, clinics and health centres, and the variety of its organized charitable works.  Yet, especially in light of the present refugee crisis, we see how much more needs to be done!  The inspiration for your works of assistance to the needy must always be that pastoral charity which is quick to recognize human woundedness and to respond with generosity, one person at a time.  By working to create a “culture of mercy” (cf. Misericordia et Misera, 20), your local Churches demonstrate their option for the poor, reinforce their proclamation of the Father’s infinite mercy, and contribute in no small measure to the integral development of their homeland".

"An important part of my pastoral visit to Bangladesh is the interreligious and ecumenical encounter that will take place immediately following our meeting.  Yours is a nation where ethnic diversity is mirrored in a diversity of religious traditions.  The Church’s commitment to pursuing interreligious understanding through seminars and educational programmes, as well as through personal contacts and invitations, contributes to the spread of good will and harmony.  Work unremittingly to build bridges and to foster dialogue, for these efforts not only facilitate communication between different religious groups, but also awaken the spiritual energies needed for the work of nationbuilding in unity, justice and peace. "

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