09/09/2006, 00.00
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Bangladesh: beatification process starts for first native bishop

He is the deceased Archbishop of Dhaka, Mgr Theotonius Amal Ganguly. The official mass announcing the opening of the cause was attended by nine bishops, hundreds of religious and more than 3,000 faithful.

Dhaka (AsiaNews/UCAN) – Bangladeshi Catholics have begun praying for the intercession of their first native archbishop, Mgr Theotonius Amal Ganguly, and to pray for his beatification, which would be the first of a local Catholic. Fr Proshanto Theotonius Rebeiro, parish priest of St Mary's Cathedral in Dhaka, said during mass on 2 September: "From now on, we will not address him as the late archbishop but as Servant of God, Theotonius Amal Ganguly."

The ceremony that marked this historic event for the country was attended by nine bishops – including the Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh Archbishop Paul Tschang In-nam and Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka – as well as about 100 priests, several hundred religious, and more than 3,000 lay people. The mass was publicized as the "official announcement of the process for the cause of beatification and canonization" of Archbishop Ganguly.

The granting of the title "servant of God" is the prelude to the three-stage canonization process by which a candidate may be declared venerable, then proclaimed blessed and canonized a saint. For candidates who are not martyrs, a miracle certified as due to their intercession is required by canon law to be beatified. A second miracle, after beatification, is then required for canonization.

Blessed Pope John XXIII appointed the first native bishop of then East Pakistan on 3 September 1960. On July 6, 1965, Pope Paul VI appointed him coadjutor archbishop of Dhaka. Archbishop Ganguly headed Dhaka archdiocese from 23 November 1967 until 2 September 1977, when he died of a heart attack at the age of 57.

In his sermon during mass on 2 September, Archbishop Costa said many lay people, old and young, had asked him to take the initiative to open the cause for his predecessor's canonization. In March, he heeded these requests and initiated the process to request permission from Pope Benedict XVI to open the cause.

"We will pray that God may give an auspicious ending to this process," Archbishop Costa said. "Each one of you will receive a photo of the Servant of God and a prayer. I ask that you say this prayer in each house and parish."

After the mass, many of the faithful went to pray at Archbishop Ganguly's grave in the archbishop's residence. Many people came from different parishes of the archdiocese. Gabriel and Agnes Botlero, aged 70 and 77 years, travelled by bus to come for the event. They both said they used to attend masses celebrated by the Servant of God and had been impressed. "We came here to ask for his blessing. We hope soon he will be recognized as a saint," Gabriel said.

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