Pope Francis called on Catholics, a small minority in the predominantly Muslim country of Bangladesh, to support priests with their prayers as he celebrated Mass in Dhaka on Dec. 1. The call has become more timely in the wake of the Nov. 27 disappearance
of Father Walter William Rozario, 41, assistant parish priest of Maria Virgo Potens Church in Borni. The priest was last seen in a Christian stronghold while overseeing the printing of a souvenir magazine for the ordination of 16 deacons by the pontiff on Friday. In his address after the ordination, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to the faithful for their presence and their "tremendous love for the Church." The pope urged the newly ordained priests to "move forward" and draw inspiration from the Beatitudes of Jesus as he also requested the faithful pray for the priests. "Nurture and support the priests with continuous prayers," he said, adding that "as followers of Christ it's our responsibility to always support the priests." "You might ask how could we help and support the priests? You will know how to help them with your vocation, calling of life, and your generosity," said the pontiff. An estimated crowd of 80,000 Catholics
from all over Bangladesh and neighboring countries attended the Mass. The pope arrived at the historic Suhrawardy Udyan Park on a popemobile — a pickup truck covered in glass — amid tight security. The pontiff thanked the people who endured the heat of the noonday sun during the two-hour ceremony in the middle of an historic park in the country's capital. "I know many of you travelled for two days to reach here," said Pope Francis. "I thank you for your generosity. This shows the love for betterment embedded in your hearts," he added. In a thanksgiving speech, Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka told the pope that the Christian community of Bangladesh "is privileged to have this wonderful communion with you." He noted the significance of the celebration of the Mass in the middle of the Suhrawardy Udyan Park, where the Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, gave his world-famous declaration of independence in 1971. The speech has since been declared by the UNESCO as a "World Documentary Heritage." "On this very ground, we Christians have celebrated the Holy Eucharist for the first time, making the ground more meaningful and symbolizing the special role of the Church in Bangladesh," said Cardinal D'Rozario.
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Father Liton D'Costa, a parish priest in the Diocese of Rajshahi, said he felt blessed seeing the pope. "Listening to his words have invigorated me," said the priest. "It will help me to serve my people in the parish better as I am more energized. I have come from a faraway place as a pilgrim to see the pope and I have no feeling of pain but happiness," he added. Sister Aroti Tigga from the Associates of Mary Queen of Apostles congregation, said seeing the pope was a "lifelong dream" that has been fulfilled. She said the pope's "simplicity and inspiration" has boosted religious like her "to work more vigorously as rural as missionaries." Prodip Jengcham, 27, a Garo indigenous Catholic from northeast Mymensingh Diocese, came to attend the papal Mass with his wife and two children. "The journey was not easy but painful, but we have endured it. Pope Francis has shown how much he loves us and it has drawn us here," said the 27-year-old day laborer. "I think today me and my family have been born again in our life of faith," he said. The pope, who is on the second leg of his Asian tour, earlier expressed his gratitude to Bangladesh for the "spirit of generosity and solidarity" by providing shelter to Rohingya refugees. In a speech
upon his arrival in Dhaka from Myanmar on Nov. 30, the pontiff called for "decisive" action on the Rohingya refugee crisis. The pontiff was scheduled to meet 16 representatives of the refugees, including two children, later in the day during an interfaith meeting. Farid Uddin Masoud, a Muslim cleric who will attend the meeting, said he expects the pope "to speak for the oppressed Rohingya
." Christians make up less than 0.5 percent of Bangladesh's 165 million population. #popeheartofasia #PopeFrancis