Bangladesh's first candidate for sainthood: A literary tribute

Nine years in the making, a new book honors Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly
Bangladesh's first candidate for sainthood: A literary tribute

Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka (second left) launches a new book on late Holy Cross Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly in Dhaka on Sept. 2. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)

The Catholic Church in Bangladesh has launched a new book to pay tribute to late Holy Cross Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly of Dhaka, the country’s first candidate for sainthood.

Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka unveiled the book, “Servant of God Theotonius Amal Ganguly: Pride of Bangladesh Church,” on Sept. 2, during a celebration at St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Dhaka on the 42nd anniversary of the prelate’s death.

The 789-page book covers substantial ground, including the arrival of the Catholic Church on the Indian subcontinent, the landmark events of the archbishop’s life and work, plus major articles written about him by others.

Hundreds of Catholics watched a documentary on Archbishop Ganguly and attended a Mass and book launch before paying their respects by praying and placing flowers at his grave outside.

Catholics pray at the grave of late Holy Cross Archbishop Ganguly in Dhaka on Sept. 2. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)

A lifetime in service

T.A. Ganguly was born in a village in the parish of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Hashnabad, Dhaka, in 1920.

He was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1946, became the first native Bengali (auxiliary) bishop of Dhaka in 1960 and first native archbishop in 1965. He served the Dhaka Archdiocese from 1965-77 until his death from a massive heart attack at the age of 57.

Archbishop Ganguly was known for his outstanding academic excellence, including obtaining a doctoral degree, as well as great personal virtues including humility, modesty and a love for the poor.

He played a pivotal role in empowering the Church, including promotion of lay leadership, youth formation and support to the country’s downtrodden communities, after Bangladesh gained independence from Pakistan in 1971.

The book is the fruit of nine years’ labor, says its editor, Sunil Pereira.

“People who met and worked with Archbishop Ganguly used to call him a ‘living saint’ because of his extraordinary life and we have found from his life stories, articles and speeches that he was indeed a great person,” said Pereira. “Many people also wrote about his remarkable life and works, and we have put together everything on him that we could find.

“We hope that this book will have great value as a work of reference and that his writings and speeches will offer a guiding light for people.”

Immediate recognition

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The country’s sole Catholic weekly, Pratibeshi (Neighbor), proposed immediately after his death that the Church should begin the canonization process.

In 2006, the Church declared Archbishop Ganguly a “Servant of God,” the first step toward canonization, thus making him the country’s first sainthood candidate. Canadian Holy Cross missionary Brother Flavian Laplante, who was declared a Servant of God in 2009, is Bangladesh’s second candidate.

Father Patrick Simon Gomes, secretary of the local Church’s Canonization Tribunal, said the process of Archbishop Ganguly’s canonization was proceeding smoothly.

“Our tribunal successfully completed its duty in 2018 and a Vatican delegate visited us,” said Father Gomes, who is also rector of Bangladesh’s only Holy Spirit National Major Seminary, founded by Archbishop Ganguly. “We handed over to him our documents and he submitted them to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which issued a decree of judiciary in this regard.

“Our cardinal has also formed a nine-member committee tasked with publicizing the life and works of Archbishop Ganguly, including a prayer for his sainthood in parishes, and also for recording any miraculous acts credited to him. We hope and pray that he will become a saint one day.”

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