Archbishop Bejoy Nichephorus D’Cruze (center) with retired archbishop Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario (right) and apostolic nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry at an installation and thanksgiving ceremony at St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Dhaka on Nov. 27. (Photo: Piyas Biswas/UCA News)
Archbishop Bejoy Nichephorus D’Cruze, the new head of Dhaka Archdiocese in Bangladesh, has vowed to promote unity, solidarity and dialogue in the Catholic community, all churches and other faiths for communion and peace.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) prelate made the pledge during his installation as the new archbishop of Dhaka at St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Bangladesh’s capital city on Nov. 27.
About 500 people, mostly Catholics, attended the Covid-19-protocoled Mass and reception program that also sought to thank retired Holy Cross Archbishop Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, who served the archdiocese from 2011.
Among the dignitaries were apostolic nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry, who celebrated the Mass, five bishops, Protestant leaders, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s special assistant Biplob Barua and Catholic parliamentarians Jewel Areng and Jharna Gloria Sarker.
“I am unworthy and incompetent, yet God has chosen me to be a shepherd,” said Archbishop D’Cruze, who is taking charge of the country’s oldest and largest diocese after serving the dioceses of Khulna and Sylhet. He also thanked Cardinal D’Rozario for his great service for the past 10 years.
In his first sermon as archbishop, the 64-year-old prelate said his priority is communion.
“The Church should become a communion, fraternity of believers, and unity would prevail in all circumstances. This is a must as we worship and follow the Trinitarian God — a communion between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” Archbishop D’Cruze said.
“Jesus has brought together and forged unity among various races and nations with His Holy Blood. We are called to be united in the same fraternity. This unity and communion can bring for us the heavenly blessings, joy and peace.”
He reminded the audience that Christianity is a universal religion for dialogue with other faiths and the welfare of humanity.
“Christianity is a universal religion. It has an enormous heart and it has been sent to all ethnicities and nationalities for liberation and atonement. Thus, we accept all with an open heart, have dialogue of faith and forge harmony. It is because we believe all people have been created in the image of God,” Archbishop D’Cruze said.
“Christianity is universal thanks to Jesus. He healed gentiles and even embraced them with love. He even acknowledged the faith of the gentiles by saying: Your faith has healed you.”
The prelate noted that to ensure ecumenical unity and interfaith dialogue, it is essential to “go outside” to create a culture of love and dialogue, by following the teaching of St. Pope John Paul II: “You are not only educators but also witnesses of faith.”
Father Joyanto S. Gomes, president of Bangladesh Diocesan Priests’ Fraternity, promised to support the new prelate.
“We will continue to treasure what is truth and good. We will continue to nurture in communion with you. Priests will express their support in the form of their unity, fraternity and mutual responsibilities and sharing,” Father Gomes said.
“Priests in Dhaka express their complete loyalty to you and commitment to be united with you for the service of God and people of God in the archdiocese.”
Thomas Rozario, a Catholic politician and layman, made a similar pledge on behalf of local Catholics.
“As bishop in Khulna and Sylhet dioceses, you have proved great leadership and now you have become archbishop of Dhaka. You have become a model for interfaith dialogue and promoted harmony. We love you and promise to support you always in every challenge as you lead us as a shepherd,” Rozario said.
Coming back home
Pope Francis appointed Bishop D’Cruze of Sylhet the new archbishop of Dhaka on Sept. 30 following the retirement of Cardinal D’Rozario, who recently reached 77. The pope extended the term of the country's first cardinal by two years in 2018.
Archbishop D’Cruze is the first Oblate prelate, the 11th bishop and sixth archbishop of Dhaka Archdiocese.
Born on Feb. 9, 1956, in Puran Tuital village of Dhaka district, Archbishop D’Cruze was ordained an Oblate priest in 1987. Following short stints in parishes, he studied theology for a licentiate degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome from 1990-92 and obtained a doctorate in 1996-99. He was the director of the Oblate Juniorate in Dhaka from 1993-96 and 1999-2000. He also taught theology at Holy Spirit Major Seminary for years.
He served as the delegation superior of Oblates in Bangladesh from 2001-05.
On Feb. 19, 2005, he was appointed bishop of Khulna Diocese and served there until 2011. He became the first bishop of Sylhet Diocese when it was separated from Dhaka Archdiocese in 2011.
Archbishop D’Cruze is president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) and chairman of the CBCB’s Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue.
Christianity in Dhaka dates back to the 17th century. Canonically erected as a diocese in 1886 and elevated to an archdiocese in 1950, Dhaka is one of the largest and oldest Christian strongholds among two archdioceses and six dioceses in Bangladesh. It has about 80,000 Catholics in 21 parishes and five quasi-parishes served by some 115 priests.