Card. D'Rozario: The Church is like a small lamp, but it gives light to all Bangladesh
The country's first cardinal speaks of extremism, the tasks of the Catholic Church, areas of development. Fundamentalist violence "has political motives and does not come from ordinary people". Pope Francis acknowledged "the values, culture and traditions, which are our treasures". "Ready to welcome the pilgrim Francis".
Rome (AsiaNews) - In Bangladesh "there is a profound religious harmony" as witnessed by the fact that "we celebrate masses for Muslims and Hindus"; The Catholic Church is "the salt of the nation, it is held in esteem and appreciated". "We are a small lamp that gives light to the whole nation," and everyone recognizes "the value of our contribution to the development of the country." At the same time, "we are witnessing a spread of fundamentalist ideas," but "they do not come from the base, from ordinary people, but are dictated by political motivations, and certainly are financed from abroad." This is what Card. Patrick D'Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka and first Cardinal of Bangladesh, who is currently in Rome tells AsiaNews.
The cardinal speaks of the emotion, but also of the strong shock when he learned that Pope Francis had appointed him a cardinal, of the challenges for the local Catholic Church, and the importance of interreligious dialogue in the majority-Islamic country. Above all, he emphasizes "the deep humility of the population. My appointment is an acknowledgment of the traditions, culture and harmony of this country, a real treasure for us and now also for all humanity. " According to the cardinal, the "merit" of his appointment goes to the people of Bangladesh, to the nation’s cultural traditions and to "being a small flock, which is also a call to increasingly witness to Christianity within the Islamic and Hindu majority. " He draws inspiration "from the gaze of people, for that look is the very gaze of the Lord."
The Cardinal says that the news of his appointment was “an unexpected shock. Everyone came to congratulate me, but I was shocked. The only thing I knew was to accept God's will, without realizing what this would do for me. I reflected all night and understood that this choice reflects the love the Holy Father nourishes for Bangladesh, a poor country and a small flock of about 600,000 Christians, of which 350,000 Catholics. "
According to Card. D'Rozario, "by saying that Bangladesh is a poor country I do not mean poor from the material point of view, but poor in the spirit, people have basic evangelical values, this is the biblical sense of the poor. Impetuous, happy, rejoicing in the small things, they are courageous, faith-filled, and full of love. They struggle, but at the same time have an enormous ability to recover, people are wise, they know how to adapt to social, environmental and climatic changes. "All of these features, he continues, "are values, are treasures, valued by the fact that Bangladesh has a harmonious cultural identity with other religions." The choice of Bangladesh, he adds, reflects "Pope Francis's will to go to the peripheries of the world, to bring back and integrate their spirituality into the center of the Church. "
But in the face of this great cultural heritage, of a people who mostly live in harmony with religious communities, he admits the presence of extremist fringes "often financed from abroad, such as Saudi Arabia that is building mosques [which donated 10, 8 billion euros for 560 mosques and religious centers-ed], but mostly with links to the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party's Bnp. They want to project the image of a struggling, disunited country, where democracy does not reign. " "But it is not wrong to receive funds from other countries - he says - everyone should be recognized their right, even the Church. The problem is how this money is used. "
The cardinal uses a metaphor to represent extremist violence: "They are like the ripples that are created on the surface of a river's water. Beneath the surface everything is calm, while above there are riots. Bangladesh is the same: at the base of society people live in a peaceful way; Then there are politically motivated groups that create disorder. " When it was created in 1971, the country was "founded on four pillars: nationalism, democracy, secularism, socialism. But then there have been over 20 years of military government, with the army that has glorified and integrated the perpetrators of political crimes during the phase of independence in the public administration. "
Now democracy reigns in the country, "but for too long the seeds of those four pillars have not been cultivated. For too long you have not lived through those principles and now militant groups are trying to gain power. " All that is happening, he points out, "has political reasons."
Then he reports that the day following the Dhaka massacre of July 1 last "Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina summoned religious leaders and told us that no one should be killed in the name of religion." The political motivations of violence "are evident in the fact that the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr was targeted in Skolakia the next week. The target was the liberal imam who led the prayer, who was gathering signatures for a fatwa of condemnation of extremism. I too supported the initiative. "
Concerning the contribution of the Catholic Church to the development of the country, for Card. D'Rozario "Catholics are like salt for the nation, like a small lamp that gives light". In particular, in key areas of education, health, charitable relief and welfare, interreligious dialogue. As far as education is concerned, "our work, the schools, the quality of education we provide are highly appreciated and acknowledged by all as the best. With over 1000 schools, we guarantee formation to all, Christians and non-Christians, even in the remote areas of the country. Through education, we have a positive impact on the whole society. " Moreover, every parish - about 150 throughout the country - has its own medical dispensary, where free medication, medicines, health education are provided. In the aspect of relief during floods, fires and monsoons, the lion's share is carried out by Caritas, whose value is recognized all over the world. Our section of the Church's social arm leads more than 90 projects and about 80% of the staff is not Catholic. "
Regarding dialogue, Card. D'Rozario divides work into four fields: "The dialogue of life, that is, how to live with one's neighbors; Dialogue in action, that is, how can we work together; Dialogue of persuasion, based on meetings that we hold each year during the Lenten period to reflect on the various aspects of different religions. The Hindus ulema and guru take part, because interreligious dialogue is deeply rooted in society. The fourth area of dialogue is to pray and fast together, reflecting on how the word of God can have an impact in our lives and can be applied. " He quotes an entirely original aspect: "In our liturgies, we pray for other religious leaders. And the same Muslims and government authorities when they meet us, they ask us to pray for them. "
Lastly, regarding Pope Francis's wish to visit Bangladesh, the cardinal states: "We are ready to welcome him as a spiritual leader, a pilgrim, an example for all people; as an advocate for the poor, as a bearer of a message for them; As confirmation of the faith of our little flock. He would give great courage and impetus in professing Christianity. "