12/05/2017, 12.02
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Dhaka: the Pope's visit a success. Christians 'salt' of society

by Anna Chiara Filice

The reactions of the young people, the hopes for the Catholic Church. Extensive media coverage of events, which allowed the population to discover that "Catholics exist". From our envoy on the ground

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis’ visit to Dhaka has been a success. Before they had never seen the Cross, but now the Bengalis have discovered that God exists and that Catholics live in their country, also thanks to the extensive media coverage of events. In principle the organization by the Central Committee was effective, if at times also confusing.

These are some of the immediate reactions shared with AsiaNews, the day after the meeting with the young people, an appointment that concluded the pontiff’s pastoral visit to Bangladesh. Speaking to the faithful who flocked from all over the country, some priests and missionaries and Fr. Jyoti Francis Costa, assistant to the general secretary of the Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh (Cbcb). The common impression is that the Pope's presence was an "exceptional fact", the spark of a new era for the local Church and missionary zeal.

Fr. Costa reports that he received many messages of appreciation: "People are really happy, they have felt the loving touch of the Holy Father in their hearts. The entire program went according to plan. Card. Patrick D'Rozario [Archbishop of Dhaka, ed.] also congratulated the Organizing Committee, which worked together to make this visit a spiritual experience for all ".

The harmony that the Pope underlined several times in his speeches, he continues, "is already a reality in this country. I believe that the visit will strengthen this bond even more, collaboration and support among the faithful of different religions. The message of the Holy Father was heard by everyone, even on television, and this will bring positive effects ".

A Catholic journalist agrees: "National television had never broadcast live Mass at Suhrawardi Udyan Park before. Or that the reports on the priestly ordinations would even continue to be broadcast in the evening editions ". "This finally made us visible - adds a missionary - now people know that Catholics exist. And for the first time saw the cross of Christ on television ".

Fr. Costa continues that thanks to this visit "our work for the poor, the needy, the marginalized, the Rohingya, will take on new strength. It is already under way, and it will be even more ". He suggests that an important aspect of this  "is to understand what echo, what resonance the visit will have between now and three months’ time, how the message of love and peace will be communicated and absorbed at the local level in everyday life. In this regard, we are planning an evaluation meeting for next March, in which we will share experiences and reception at the level of individual dioceses. We want to know how the Catholic people live the teachings of Pope Francis and if they have led to visible changes ".

In addition to the positive aspects, some Catholics have some criticisms, such as an episode involving a group of street children, who were first invited to participate and then excluded from Mass. Or like the lack of a simultaneous translation of the Pope's speeches. This is the reason, notes Fr. Costa, "why we did not hear cheers at the meeting with young people. The maxi-screens did not cover the whole room, so the young people did not understand. And also the space of the corridor that separated them from the Pope was very large, so they could not touch him. And Francis also tried to lean out, but he could not reach them ".

On the hopes for the Church in Bangladesh, the secretary states: "I hope the visit is an occasion for a total renewal of our spirit of charity and pastoral work. I hope that priests, religious and Catholics generally become more involved and committed, working with missionary zeal. We must learn to live together, we need it. It is important for people to learn how to live as brothers and sisters, respecting each other ".

The biggest challenge "is to bring the message to the peripheries, to the rural villages where so many Catholics live. Because if it is true that the Pope has come to us that we are a 'periphery of the world', in the same way we must do the same, starting to involve the parishes, the catechists".

Christians of Bangladesh, concludes Fr. Jyoti, must be "like salt. It gives flavor to food. We are not so many, about 600 thousand [0.2% of the population]. The majority of the inhabitants are like rice, while we try to work like salt: in schools and universities, we transmit human values, we teach how to love one another ".

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