Pope Benedict XVI erected the new Diocese of Sylhet on July 8, making it the country’s 7th diocesan jurisdiction. The Holy Father also appointed Oblate Bishop Bejoy Nicephorus D'Cruze of Khulna
as the diocese’s first bishop. The new ecclesiastical province has six parishes and 12 out-stations with 17,000 predominantly tribal Catholics, 21 priests and 33 religious. It covers four civil districts -- Sylhet, Sunamganj, Habiganj and Moulvibazar -- and was carved from Dhaka archdiocese
, making it a suffragan of the same metropolitan church. Bishop D’Cruze said he is ready to undertake his new responsibilities and challenges. “It’s an honor to be appointed the first bishop of a new diocese. Now I have to meet with religious and laypeople to formulate plan of action,” he said. He said he is already looking for land to build a cathedral and a bishops’ house. “For now I’ll have to live and work in a rented house.” Religious and laypeople in Sylhet have welcomed the long-awaited new ecclesiastical status for the region. “We’ve been waiting for this a long time so we are very happy,” said Father Michael Sarker, a priest in Srimangal parish in Moulvibazar district. “Now we need not to travel all the way to Dhaka on Church business,” he added. There are approximately 400,000 Catholics in Bangladesh out of a total population of over 160 million.