Holy Cross Father Benjamin Costa during a seminar in Dhaka, Oct. 25, 2013. (ucanews.com photo)
Bangladeshis are mourning a prominent Catholic educationist who promoted human development as well as interfaith and ecumenical harmony.
Father Benjamin Costa, a local Holy Cross priest, passed away aged 75 at a hospital in the capital Dhaka on Oct. 12 following a long battle with various ailments including a lung infection.
Thousands of Christian and non-Christian mourners attended funeral Masses at both St. Mary's Cathedral and the Holy Rosary Church in Dhaka on Oct. 14.
He was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Gazipur district in the evening.
Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka presided over the funeral Mass at the cathedral along with apostolic nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry and several bishops.
Cardinal D'Rozario said Father Costa served the church, society and his nation with utmost dedication.
"We have been good friends since we met in the seminary in 1962," Cardinal D'Rozario, a Holy Cross confrere, said during the homily.
"Through his works he has served people irrespective of caste and creeds.
"His works and writings have promoted human development as well as interfaith and ecumenical harmony.
"We must thank God for his life and reap the fruits of his works to enrich and illuminate ourselves."
In a message on Oct. 13, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her "profound grief" and condoled the church and Father Costa's bereaved family.
Education minister Nurul Islam Nahid attended the funeral Mass at the cathedral and described the demise of Father Costa as a "great loss" for the nation.
"The whole education family is saddened and shocked," the minister said.
"He was our guardian and great adviser.
"We must continue to carry out his mission of offering quality education to our younger generations for the greater welfare of the country."
Father Costa was born in 1942.
He entered the Holy Cross congregation in 1965 and was ordained as a priest in 1971.
He served as a parish pastor, seminary director, novice master, college professor and coordinator of the Catholic Church's youth commission in Bangladesh.
He authored dozens of books and translated important papal documents. He was secretary of the Coordination Committee during the visit of St. Pope John Paul II to Bangladesh on Nov. 19, 1986.
From 1998-2012, Father Costa was the principal of church-run Notre Dame College in Dhaka, one of country's finest educational institutes.
From 2013-2017, he was the acting vice-chancellor of Notre Dame University Bangladesh, the country's first and only Catholic university.
Other positions he held included secretary of the bishops' Bangladesh Catholic Education Board and president of the Bangladesh Conference of Religious.
Rajib Sarker, 30, a Hindu and former student of Notre Dame College, said he is grateful to Father Costa for "illuminating" his life.
He said such people were born once in a century.