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Pioneering Dhaka church marks 150 years

Recognition given to outstanding contributions of missionaries and faithful to development of Catholicism in Bangladesh

Pioneering Dhaka church marks 150 years

Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka releases a pigeon marking the 150th anniversary of Holy Cross Church in Dhaka on Sept. 14. (Photo by Stephan Uttom/ucanews.com)

Thousands of Catholics have marked a 150-year jubilee by paying tribute to missionaries and faithful for their contributions to growth of the Church in Bangladesh.

The Holy Cross Church in an area known as old Dhaka, founded in 1868 and administered by the Holy Cross Congregation, Sept. 14-15 celebrated with a Holy Mass, cultural events and a fraternity meal.

Holy Cross Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka, the nation's capital, along with auxiliary Bishop Shorot F. Gomes, concelebrated the Mass and cultural programs attended by more than 3,000 people, including Catholics, Protestants and non-Christians.

"A parish Church is the sign of a divine communion and family," Cardinal D'Rozario said.

God had especially blessed the Holy Cross Church, so it played a significant role in the growth of the Catholic Church and its contributions to the nation, he added

"We express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to God for the blessings," Cardinal D'Rozario said.

In a message, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop George Kocherry described the anniversary as a time for spiritual renewal.

"It is gratifying to note that, in spite of the context of a changing world, people of Bangladesh are assiduously witnessing and following a spiritual journey, a pilgrimage to fulfil the principles and demands of the Kingdom of God," Archbishop Kocherry said.

"Anniversaries are an excellent time for parishes to reflect on the past and to honor the men and women on whose shoulders they stand."

The Holy Cross Church is located at Luxmi Bazar in an area that has been a commercial center since the time of the Mughal Empire in India. 

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Although it is disputed exactly when Catholic missionaries first evangelized in old Dhaka, church historians believe a Catholic Church dedicated to Mary was established in 1628.

The church was destroyed over time by flooding, as well as other natural disasters, and never rebuilt.

Later, a small chapel was erected in Luxmi Bazar to serve local Catholics, most of them the descendants of European merchants.

In 1868, a parish church was built, but the structure was seriously damaged by an 1883 cyclone.

In 1845, the Vatican erected an East Bengal vicariate and appointed Bishop Thomas Oliff as the first administrator. Bishop Oliff was based in the coastal city of Chittagong in the beginning, but later moved to Dhaka.

The Holy Cross Church served as the first cathedral church of Dhaka and hosted the Bishop's House until 1963, when a papal decree elevated the Immaculate Conception Church in Ramna of central Dhaka to be the cathedral and seat of Dhaka's bishop.

The Holy Cross Church has given rise to outstanding church-run and church-oriented institutions, including Notre Dame College, Holy Cross College, St. Gregory's High School and College, St. Joseph's Higher Secondary School and College, St. Joseph's Technical School, the Christian Cooperative Credit Union Ltd. and the Metropolitan Christian Housing Society Ltd.

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