Newly appointed Archbishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’Cruze of Dhaka Archdiocese. (Photo: Stephan Uttom/UCA News)
Pope Francis has appointed Bishop Bejoy Nicephorus D’Cruze of Sylhet as the new metropolitan archbishop of Dhaka.
The Oblates of Mary Immaculate prelate replaces Holy Cross Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario in Bangladesh’s capital.
The news of the appointment was simultaneously released by the Vatican and Dhaka Archdiocese on Sept. 30, according to a press release from Archbishop George Kocherry, apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh.
Cardinal D’Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka since 2011, resigned from the post on the eve of his 77th birthday. Although he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2018, Pope Francis extended his term by two years. He became the first cardinal of Bangladesh in 2016.
Archbishop D’Cruze, 64, is the first prelate of Dhaka from the Oblate religious order that has been serving in Bangladesh since 1973. He is the 11th bishop and sixth archbishop of Dhaka. This metropolitan see has been predominantly served by prelates from Holy Cross, the largest religious order in the country.
Born on Feb. 9, 1956, in Puran Tuital village under Holy Spirit Catholic Church of Dhaka district, Archbishop D’Cruze was ordained an Oblate priest in 1987. Following short stints in parishes in the Sylhet region, he was sent to Rome, where he studied theology for a licentiate degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University from 1990-92.
From 1993-96 and 1999-2000, he was the director of the Oblate Juniorate in Dhaka. He obtained a doctorate degree in theology from the Gregorian University in 1996-99. He has taught theology at Holy Spirit National Major Seminary in Dhaka for many 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. In Sylhet, he built up the diocese in terms of infrastructure, spirituality and pastoralism.
“I did not even have a house of my own. I was renting a room in a house belonging to Muslims where I was not allowed to celebrate the Eucharist. Nor was I permitted to hold any religious meetings. I was allowed only to say my own private prayers. But in fact I did celebrate the Eucharist secretly, sometimes in the company of my priests,” the new archbishop said in an interview about his first experiences as the bishop of Sylhet.
He is also respected for his pastoral activism thanks to frequent visits to predominantly indigenous Catholics in parishes and mission centers of Sylhet Diocese with about 19,000 faithful.
Archbishop D’Cruze served as the treasurer of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) for years and on Aug. 15, 2020, he became its secretary-general. He is chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Dialogue and well known for his advocacy for interdenominational and interfaith dialogue and harmony.
Dhaka, canonically erected as a diocese 1886 and elevated to an archdiocese in 1950, is one of the largest and oldest Christian strongholds among two archdioceses and six dioceses in Bangladesh. The archbishop of Dhaka is the ex-officio president of the CBCB and viewed by other faiths as the head of Christians in the Muslim-majority country.
Dhaka Archdiocese covers eight civil districts of central Bangladesh and has about 80,500 Catholics in about 25 parishes and about a dozen mission centers in three regions — Dhaka metropolitan, Bhawal and Atharogram (Eighteen Villages).
Many Catholics expressed their joy and expectations over the appointment of Archbishop D’Cruze.
“Many congratulations, new Archbishop Bejoy D’Cruze, my rector at the Oblate Juniorate, a man with strong morale, dedication and knowledge. Your leadership today is more important than ever to discipline the Catholic Church of Bangladesh,” said Porimol Palma, a Catholic and senior journalist with leading English-language newspaper The Daily Star.