Bangladesh pilgrims at Mass with Pope Francis (video)
by Anna Chiara Filice

This morning, Mass at Dhaka's Suhrawardi Udyan Park. 16 priests ordained. More than 70,000 people are present. Participants include some Khulna lepers. A group from the parish of Mohespur spent 15 hours traveling. The hopes of young workers. The commitment of a newly consecrated. From our envoy on the ground.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – This morning in Bangladesh the Pope witnessed a nationwide pilgrimage. Thousands of Catholics came from every corner of the country to attend the Great Mass at Dharma's Suhrawardi Udyan Park, during which the pontiff ordained 16 priests. Some participants spent up to two days of travel to reach the capital. To all these Pope Francis said, "Thank you for your faith."

Fr. Gregory Natale, a local assistant to the Holy See's press office, reports to AsiaNews: "About 110,000 faithful are registered, but today the participants are certainly more than 70,000."

From early dawn Catholics were waiting in line at the entrance gates: all five, divided by color, which corresponds to a specific territorial area. The checks were carried out in an orderly manner and respecting the queues, which is very rare for a city where the utmost confusion reigns.

About 8,000 police officers and 500 Catholic volunteers ensured the safety of pilgrims. They also included medical care units. Shanti Corraya, the manager, reports that 50 doctors and nurses were located in 11 points in the city to assist those coming from villages. Today, there were 8 first aid teams for immediate support in case of minor injuries and sunstroke. Some volunteers, aged between 17 and 34, say: "We are not doctors, but we have received a basic preparation. We are sure it will be enough."

Participants also included a group of lepers from the Damien Hospital Khulna leper center, in southern Bangladesh. Sr. Roberto Pignone, of the Missionaries of the Immaculate, states: "We were allowed to bring nine people." One of them says "to experience this brings great joy to my heart. I'm glad to be here. "

There are also 1500 young female workers present, current and former guests of the "Worker Jesus" hostel in Girani, the periphery of the capital known for textile companies. We meet four girls: Carolina, Kolpona, Angela and Rogina. "We would never have imagined that we could meet the Pope," they say, "and now we hope that the visit of the Holy Father will also bring some change in the world of work. For example, better contract terms for women."

Most pilgrims arrived yesterday, and found hospitality in many religious houses and Catholic schools. We meet a group of 23 people at the Green Herald School and College in the Mohammadpur neighborhood. They say that 85 parishioners from their parish in the Diocese of Dinajpur were able to make the trip. "Many others wanted to come - says one faithful - but the trip was expensive and not everyone could afford it." A priest accompanying them reports: "The price of the ticket, 1500 taka (15 euros), corresponds to about two weeks of work in the fields and many have failed to collect the money needed." Among those who made it, a 40-year-old lady. "For me - I declare - it is a double delight, because I will see Pope Francis and I am in Dhaka, a city that I never had the opportunity to visit."

Adajri comes from the same village, but studied in Dhaka in one of the best Medical Colleges and now works at the Square Hospital. She reaffirms the joy of meeting the pope and adds: "I witness to Christ among our patients showing them his compassionate face. They know I'm Catholic and they tell me I'm good." The young woman of 23 has been working for 11 months. For her, God's mercy toward the sick goes through the waiver of fees. "If I know they are very poor, I ask for less," she says.

At the end of the Mass we encounter Fr. Robert Nokrek, one of the newly ordained priests. "I'm glad, I can feel the love of God around me. He sends me to support my people. I will go to a parish in the Jamalpur district, in the diocese of Mymensingh. My motto is: 'God's grace is everything  for me. Without His grace I can do nothing. I receive it every day in the Eucharist. I will do His will in my life."

At the end of the ceremony, Card. Patrick D'Rozario, archbishop of the capital, thanking the pontiff states, "Holiness, your visit will bring a multitude of blessings to Bangladesh."