Dhaka (AsisNews) The theme of the pope's pastoral visit to Bangladesh between 18 and 20 November 1986 is "Communion and brotherhood". At the national stadium of Ershad in Dhaka, addressing a crowd of 50,000 including 3,000 non-Catholics, John Paul II encouraged Christians to develop greater dialogue with Muslims: "You must show them and believers of other religions that Christianity helps you to value and respect the culture and heritage of Bangladesh." At the same meeting, the pontiff described himself as "a pilgrim (who comes) in a spirit of fraternal love and respect for all".
The pope then emphasized that society must not forget its "obligations" towards the poor and at the same time, he expressed hope that Bangladeshis "will not give in until values of peace, mercy and love prevail (in the country)".
On 19 November, John Paul II visited Savar 32km northwest of Dhaka. Here he laid a wreath of flowers in memory of the national martyrs killed during the 1971liberation war.
In a breach of protocol, the pope knelt down before the altar and prayed for them. In the visitors' book, he wrote: "Animae justorum sunt in manu Dei" (The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God).
Christians in Bangladesh do not even make up 1% of the population of 141,340,476 inhabitants, which is 83% Muslim and 16% Hindu. (MA)