Pope Francis appointed Father Emmanuel Kanon Rozario as the new bishop of Barishal on June 21
Pope Francis appointed Father Emmanuel Kanon Rozario, 59, as the new bishop of Barishal Diocese of Bangladesh on June 21. (Photo supplied)
The newly appointed bishop of Bangladesh’s youngest Catholic diocese has sought participation and cooperation of local Catholics to promote dialogue and development in the impoverished southern coastal region.
Bishop-elect Rozario, 59, is the second bishop of the diocese that was canonically erected in 2015. He succeeds Holy Cross Archbishop Lawarence Subrato Howlader of Chittagong who led the diocese from 2015 until his transfer in February last year.
“I am an ordinary priest with human weakness and sinfulness. I believe Jesus has chosen me despite my weakness and sinfulness. I want to become one of them and continue to work faithfully in the church,” Bishop-elect Rozario told UCA News after the official announcement.
He said that as the new bishop he aims to ensure better pastoral care, build leadership, promote interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, and help socioeconomic development.
“I urge every Catholic to move from a self-centric society to a participatory one and work towards that goal. There is a prevailing tendency to walk alone. I will try to make people church-oriented through theological reflection of the reality of society so that we can form a synodal church,” he said.
“There are different churches with different opinions and interests, which is a challenge for sure. I will work with all bring them to consensus so that we can walk together by overcoming selfishness"
Barishal offers ample opportunities for dialogue with various faiths and churches to end differences of opinion and to work together for the common good, he said.
“There are different churches with different opinions and interests, which is a challenge for sure. I will work with all bring them to consensus so that we can walk together by overcoming selfishness,” he added.
James Premananda Biswas, 63, a Catholic and development worker, noted that besides empowering local Catholics spiritually and pastorally, the new bishop will need to prioritize social development as most Catholics still languish in poverty.
“I believe the new bishop will strengthen the foundation of the church laid by the first bishop in the new diocese,” said Biswas, deputy director of the Bangladesh Development Society, a non-government organization.
Biswas pointed out that most people in the southern coastal region are farmers and fishermen, while others make a living from private jobs and businesses. Many Catholics used to rely on fishing for a living but most have switched to agriculture in recent times, he said.
The region has high rate of poverty of 28.7 percent compared to the national rate of 24.3 percent, according to government data.
“Due to living in coastal and disaster-prone areas, about 70 percent of local Catholics are poor people. I hope the new bishop will focus on increasing employment and developing our people economically"
Barishal Diocese covers 11 civil districts and has 18,598 Catholics. Until 2015, Catholics in Barishal were part of Chittagong Archdiocese, one of the country’s oldest Catholic strongholds.
“Due to living in coastal and disaster-prone areas, about 70 percent of local Catholics are poor people. I hope the new bishop will focus on increasing employment and developing our people economically,” Biswas said.
Born on Feb. 8, 1963, at St. Francis Xavier’s Church in Pabna district, now part of Rajshahi Diocese, Bishop-elect Rozario studied philosophy and theology at Holy Spirit National Major Seminary in capital Dhaka and was ordained a priest on Dec. 28, 1993.
Following stints as a priest in various parishes of Rajshahi Diocese, he studied at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome from 1997 to 2001 and obtained a doctorate degree in biblical theology.
He started teaching Scripture at Holy Spirit Major Seminary in 2007 and became its dean of studies. He served as its rector from June 2012 to 2018.
From 2019 to 2021, he was director of development and administration in Rajshahi Diocese. He became its vicar general in 2021.
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