Archbishop Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka during a church service April 22. (ucanews.com photo)
Pope Francis announced the appointment of Archbishop Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka as one of 17 new cardinals during his weekly Sunday address on Oct. 9.
The consistory for the new cardinals is to be held on Nov. 19, on the eve of the closing of the Year of Mercy, Vatican Radio reports.
Archbishop D'Rozario, 73, is Bangladesh's first cardinal. The Holy Cross archbishop is one of three cardinals appointed from Asia along with retired Malaysian Archbishop Anthony Soter Fernandez of Kuala Lumpur and Papua New Guinea Archbishop John Ribat of Port Moresby.
Out of the 17 prelates, 13 including Archbishop D'Rozario, are under 80 years old and thus eligible to vote in a conclave.
Archbishop Patrick D'Rozario was born in 1943 at Padrishibpur, in what was then British India. He was ordained a priest in 1972. In 1990 he was ordained bishop of Rajshahi and in 1995 transferred to Chittagong.
In 2010 he was appointed Coadjutor Archbishop of Dhaka and the next year succeeded Archbishop Paulinus Costa to head Dhaka Archdiocese.
Archbishop D'Rozario is currently the president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Bangladesh and chairman of the Bangladesh Catholic Education Board. He is also chairman of the Office of Laity and Family at the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences.
Archbishop George Kocherry, the nuncio to Bangladesh, made the announcement of Archbishop D'Rozario's elevation in front of some 3,000 Catholics at Holy Rosary Church in Dhaka on Oct. 9, saying that Bangladesh "will have a representative in the next conclave."
"This is a big credit for the church in Bangladesh," the nuncio told the congregation while celebrating the parish feast day.
Addressing an applauding crowd, Archbishop D'Rozario said he is "blessed, honored and yet nervous" over the appointment.
"Despite being a tiny church, the church in Bangladesh has also contributed to the church in the world," he said.
"I thank God for this blessing united in this honor, united in solidarity with people," he said.
Church exalts in this 'special gift'
Father Kamal Corraya, parish priest of Holy Rosary Church, described Archbishop D'Rozario's appointment as "a great and historic moment for the Catholic Church in Bangladesh. Pope Francis has honored the tiny church in Bangladesh."
"In the Year of Mercy, the local church is thankful to God and the Holy Father for the special gift and blessings," said Father Corraya, president of Bangladesh Diocesan Priests' Fraternity.
The appointment of the country's first cardinal highlights the church's focus on small churches under Pope Francis, noted Nirmol Rozario, president of Bangladesh Christian Association, a major Christian rights forum.
"It is matter of great honor and pride for the local church and would strengthen and invigorate the tiny church in Bangladesh," said Rozario.
Archbishop D'Rozario elevation to cardinal will raise the profile of the Christian community at the state level and work favorably for the minority Christian population.
"The state authority knows that rank of cardinal is an important position. So, this will take church-state relations to a new dimension. I hope Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario would have more influence in the state in promoting dialogue and harmony among religions and Christian denominations," Rozario said.
Robi Christopher D'Costa, a catechist from Barisal Diocese, said the news of the country's first cardinal was one of extreme joy as he had worked with Archbishop D'Rozario when he was Chittagong bishop.
"This is a big and well-deserving gift for the local church. Here, the Catholic faith has over 400 years history although the church is tiny. Over the past 20 years the church has expanded from four dioceses to eight today," he said.
"It was a right decision from the Vatican at the right time. The appointment of would inspire and encourage the tiny church to grow enthusiastically," said D'Costa, who is also the convener of the Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue Commission in Barisal.
Christians in Bangladesh account for less than half percent of more than 160 million people in the Muslim-majority country. The 350,000 Catholics make up the majority of Christians in the country.