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Bangladesh's new bishop calls for participatory church

Bishop Shorot Francis Gomes will lead predominantly indigenous Sylhet Diocese that covers a tea plantation hub

Bangladesh's new bishop calls for participatory church

Bishop Shorot Francis Gomes was installed as the second bishop of predominantly Sylhet Diocese in Bangladesh on July 20. (Photo: Sylhet Diocese)

The new bishop of predominantly indigenous Sylhet Diocese of Bangladesh has called on the clergy, religious and laypeople to join him in preaching and living the Word of God to create a vibrant, participatory church.

“Sylhet Diocese is a fertile ground for preaching the word of God. The Lord wants to reassign each of us today to unite with the bishop so that we can devote ourselves to preaching the word of God,” said Bishop Shorot Francis Gomes of Sylhet.

“It is our priority to look at those who are deprived in many ways today and unable to live with their dignity. We have to move forward to ensure their human dignity. At the same time, we should also help build a beautiful and peaceful country through interreligious dialogue.

“I start my journey in this diocese from today. All of you will be my companions in this journey and in preaching the Word of God.”

Bishop Gomes, 56, made the appeal during a public speech in the Bengali language following his installation as the second bishop of Sylhet Diocese at the Church of Immaculate Conception in Lokhipur of Moulvibazar district on July 20.

The program included the installation Mass and a reception ceremony featuring a cultural display including indigenous music and dance.

Bishop Gomes is the second bishop of Sylhet Diocese since it was carved out from Dhaka Archdiocese and made a diocese in 2011

About 300 Christians including apostolic nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry, two archbishops, two bishops, 50 priests and nuns as well as relatives of Bishop Gomes attended the event, which was scaled down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  

The ceremony was broadcast live through the official Facebook page of Weekly Pratibeshi, the national Catholic weekly.

Bishop Gomes is the second bishop of Sylhet Diocese since it was carved out from Dhaka Archdiocese and made a diocese in 2011. He succeeds Oblate Bishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze, who was appointed archbishop of Dhaka and transferred to the nation’s capital last year.

The prelate served as auxiliary bishop of Dhaka Archdiocese from 2016 until he was appointed bishop of Sylhet. On Feb. 8, 2016, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Dhaka and he was ordained in Dhaka on April 22, 2016. Earlier, he served as vicar general of Sylhet Diocese from 2012-15.

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Sylhet Diocese covers the four civil districts of Sylhet Division and has about 20,000 mostly ethnic indigenous Catholics in seven parishes.

About half of the Catholics are poor tea workers spread in various estates in Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Habiganj districts, collectively known as the tea plantation hub of the country. Meanwhile, Khasi and Garo Catholics eke out a living from cultivating betel leaf in the hillocks of Sylhet.

Bishop Gomes was born on Dec. 15, 1965, to Catholic parents Augustine Modhu Gomes and Thecla Gomes in a village in the Holy Rosary Church parish in Hashnabad, Dhaka district.

He is the second of three siblings. Both of his sisters — Sunita Gomes and Anita Gomes — are nuns belonging to the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions (RNDM) and Our Lady of Sorrows (OLS) congregations respectively.

He was ordained a priest on May 31, 1990. Initially, he worked in parishes and in priestly formation ministry.

From 1998 to 2002, he studied and obtained a doctoral degree in moral theology in Rome. He taught moral theology at the Holy Spirit National Major Seminary in Dhaka from 2003-09.

Christians make up less than half percent of about 160 million citizens in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. There are about 400,000 Catholics in two archdioceses and six dioceses, and about half of the Catholics are from ethnic minority groups.

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