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First Native Archbishop Declared ´Servant Of God´

Updated: September 04, 2006 05:00 PM GMT
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Bangladeshi Catholics have begun praying for the intercession of their first Bengali archbishop, who has been declared a "servant of God," launching the first cause for the canonization of a local Catholic.

"From now on, we will not address him as the late Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly, but as Servant of God Theotonius Amal Ganguly," Father Proshanto Theotonius Rebeiro, parish priest of St. Mary´s Cathedral in Dhaka, said at a special Mass Sept. 2. The day also marked the 29th death anniversary of the revered Holy Cross prelate, the first Bengali archbishop of Dhaka.

Nine prelates including Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh Archbishop Paul Tschang In-nam and Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka, about 100 priests, several hundred Religious brothers and sisters, and an estimated 3,000 laypeople attended the historical event. It was publicized as the "Official Announcement of the Process for the Cause of Beatification and Canonization" of Archbishop Ganguly.

The granting of the title "servant of god" by the Vatican is the prelude to the three-stage canonization process by which a candidate may be declared venerable, then proclaimed blessed and, lastly, canonized a saint.

For candidates who are not martyrs, a miracle certified as due to their intercession normally is required for a venerable to be beatified. A second miracle, after beatification, is then required for canonization.

Blessed Pope John XXIII gave Bangladesh, then East Pakistan, its first Bengali bishop on Sept. 3, 1960, when he appointed then-Father Ganguly auxiliary bishop for Dhaka. On July 6, 1965, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Ganguly coadjutor archbishop of Dhaka.

Archbishop Ganguly headed Dhaka archdiocese from Nov. 23, 1967, until Sept. 2, 1977, when he died of a massive heart attack at the age of 57.

Father Kamal Corraya, director of the Bangladeshi bishops´ communications center, told UCA News Archbishop Ganguly is the first servant of God among Bengalis, as well as in Bangladesh.

In his sermon during the Sept. 2 Mass, Archbishop Costa recalled that many young and old lay leaders had requested him to take the initiative to begin the cause for Archbishop Ganguly´s canonization. In March Archbishop Costa initiated the process to request permission from Pope Benedict XVI to begin Archbishop Ganguly´s canonization cause.

"We will pray that God may give an auspicious ending to this process," Archbishop Costa said, adding that all Catholics will receive a holy picture with a photo of Archbishop Ganguly on one side and a prayer on the other. "I request that you say this prayer in each house and parish," he added.

Later, Massgoers prayed and placed wreaths at Archbishop Ganguly´s grave in the garden of the Dhaka archbishop´s residence, next to the cathedral.

Massgoers were from different parishes of the archdiocese. Seventy-year-old Gabriel Botlero and his 77-year-old sister-in-law, Agnes Botlero, were among Massgoers who traveled by bus from another parish. They both said they had attended Archbishop Ganguly´s Masses and loved his sermons very much.

"We came here to take his blessings. We hope soon he (Archbishop Ganguly) will be recognized as a saint," Gabriel Botlero told UCA News.

A 10-minute video documentary on Archbishop Ganguly, prepared by the Church communications center, began the three-and-a-half-hour celebration at the cathedral.

Next came testimonies to Archbishop Ganguly´s heroic virtues from retired Holy Cross Bishop Michael A. D´Rozario of Khulna, National Christian Fellowship of Bangladesh general secretary Danis Dilip Datta, Holy Cross Bangladesh provincial Father Stephen Gomes and layman Ronjon Gomes.

After this sharing Archbishop Costa made the official announcement and then placed a wreath on a picture of Archbishop Ganguly, while Archbishop Tschang and others lit candles at the foot of the picture.

Archbishop Costa, postulator of Archbishop Ganguly´s canonization cause, and vice postulator Father Mario Lachapelle, assistant general superior of the Holy Cross congregation, who came from Rome, signed oaths promising to carry out their responsibilities in pursuing the canonization cause.

The two will oversee a reconstruction of the life of the servant of God on the basis of eyewitnesses and documents so as to arrive at a morally certain judgement on Archbishop Ganguly´s holiness. Aiding them in this inquiry are nine priests, who also signed similar oaths.


(Accompanying photos available at here)

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