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New Bangladeshi archbishop seeks prayer, cooperation

Archbishop Howlader takes the helm in Chittagong, one of the oldest Catholic strongholds in the country

New Bangladeshi archbishop seeks prayer, cooperation

Holy Cross Archbishop Lawrence Subrato Howlader of Chittagong was installed at a simple ceremony on May 22. (Photo: Chittagong Archdiocese)

The new archbishop of Chittagong Archdiocese of Bangladesh has urged clergy, religious and laypeople to pray for him and cooperate as he plans to focus on fraternity, faith formation and development of the local Church.

“I have been called to serve God’s people through acts of sanctification, promotion of faith and guidance. I need your prayer and cooperation as I move on,” said Holy Cross Archbishop Lawrence Subrato Howlader.

The prelate made the appeal following his installation as the new head of Chittagong Archdiocese at Our Lady of Holy Rosary Cathedral in the southeastern port city of Chittagong on May 22.

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“I pay tribute to the late Archbishop Moses M. Costa. May God grant him eternal rest in heaven,” he said. 

A simple installation ceremony was held only with invited guests due to Covid-19 restrictions. About 123 Catholics including 32 priests, 23 nuns and religious and 64 laypeople attended the installation Mass and reception. The ceremony was broadcast live through the official Facebook page of Chittagong Archdiocese.

Among the guests were apostolic nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry, Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario and bishops from all seven dioceses of the country.

Faithful of Chattogram should be proud of this gift of faith and at the same time be faithful to Jesus and his teachings

A grand installation ceremony, scheduled for April 9, was postponed when the government declared a nationwide lockdown from April 5 to curb a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths.  

Archbishop Howlader, 56, is the second archbishop and sixth bishop of Chittagong, one the oldest Catholic strongholds in Muslim-majority Bangladesh.

He served at the first bishop of Barishal Diocese from 2015 after the new diocese was carved out from Chittagong. Earlier, he was auxiliary bishop of Chittagong from 2009 to 2015.

Archbishop Howlader fills the post left vacant when Holy Cross Archbishop Costa (2011-20) unexpectedly died from a stroke related to post-Covid complications on July 13 last year.

Archbishop Kocherry greeted the new archbishop and also announced his appointment as the apostolic administrator of Barishal Diocese until a new bishop is assigned.

“I encourage you to become a Good Shepherd to the sheep, a father and a leader to them and instill in them greater missionary zeal. I am confident that under your leadership Chattogram [Chittagong] will become an exemplary diocese filled with the spirit of evangelization,” he said.

The nuncio also reminded the faithful that Chittagong holds “a unique and privileged position” in the history of the Church in Bangladesh, where the Catholic faith arrived five centuries ago and spread to other parts of the country.  

“Faithful of Chattogram should be proud of this gift of faith and at the same time be faithful to Jesus and his teachings,” he added.

Born on Sept. 11, 1965, in Nobogram of Barishal district, Archbishop Howlader was ordained a priest on Dec. 31, 1994. He served in parishes as well as a rector and novice masters in seminaries.

From 2000 to 2004, he studied at the Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a licentiate in depth psychology, spirituality and counseling.

Chittagong played a significant role in the growth of Christianity in the country

Pope Benedict XVI appointed Father Howlader the first auxiliary bishop of Chittagong on May 7, 2009.

Chittagong played a significant role in the growth of Christianity in the country.

In 1517, Portuguese Christian traders landed at Chittagong port in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) when it was part of India. The second contingent that arrived in 1518 decided to settle down in Chittagong and nearby Diang, marking the advent of the first Christian settlements in the country. From 1518 to 1597, Chittagong was part of Goa Diocese of India.

In 1845, Chittagong became the seat of the first East Bengal Vicariate and the territory was entrusted to Dhaka Diocese in 1886. Chittagong Diocese was created in 1927 and covered territories of India and Myanmar. It was elevated to an archdiocese on Feb. 2, 2017.

Chittagong Archdiocese has about 30,000 Catholics, the majority of them indigenous people, in 11 parishes and five mission centers.

Bangladesh has about 400,000 Catholics in two archdioceses and six dioceses.

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