Local Bishop Ordained For Largely Indigenous Diocese

Bangladesh
2007-03-28 00:00:00

"Young" and largely indigenous Rajshahi diocese received its first local leader when Bishop Gervas Rozario received his episcopal ordination during a colorful ceremony.

Before the March 22 rites began at Rajshahi cathedral, members of various adivasi, or indigenous, groups in the diocese welcomed the bishop-elect with traditional music, singing and dancing.

Children then escorted the bishop-elect, bishops from the five other dioceses in the country and more than 100 priests into the cathedral, where parishioners from Rajshahi diocese´s 14 parishes had gathered. An estimated 10,000 Catholics attended the ceremony in Rajshahi city, 270 kilometers northwest of Dhaka.

In his opening remarks, Bishop Patrick Gomes of Chittagong proclaimed that the new bishop would be "the first local bishop in Rajshahi diocese." He is not an adivasi.

Holy Cross Bishop Theotonius Gomes, auxiliary bishop of Dhaka archdiocese, was the ordaining bishop.

Archbishop Paulinus Costa of Dhaka was absent, since he was having medical treatment in the United States. He served as bishop of Rajshahi from 1996 until his transfer to Dhaka in 2005.

His successor, Bishop Rozario, becomes the third bishop of the diocese, where adivasi communities include the Mahato, Malo, Malpahari, Munda Oraon, Pahari and Santal.

The bishop has served as head of the diocese since Jan. 15, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him priest-administrator. At the time he was parish priest of Rohanpur.

Apostolic Nuncio to Bangladesh Archbishop Paul Tschang In-Nam pointed out in his address at the ordination that Rajshahi diocese is "young," having been created on May 21, 1990.

The nuncio acknowledged he was "fully aware of the desire expressed by some faithful to have a bishop of adivasi origin." He said he hopes that in the future, "we may have holy adivasi priests with all necessary qualities -- human, spiritual, intellectual as well as administrative -- who may be able to discharge the important episcopal ministry for the people of God."

Following the ordination rite, Bishop Rozario told the congregation he was "somewhat surprised" to be elected bishop but "accepted it as a call of God."

The bishop later told UCA News there is much to do in the diocese to set the Church on a strong foundation. He said he would stress evangelism, moral and spiritual development of the young, and poverty alleviation for adivasi as well as their overall development.

Rajshahi diocese has more than 42,000 Catholics, mostly adivasi with their distinct identity, culture and heritage. There are also a number of Bengali-speaking people in the diocese.

Bishop Rozario was born in August 1951 in Satiangasa, in Rajshahi´s Bonpara parish. He studied in the parish´s primary school. After completing his studies at Holy Cross-run Notre Dame College and taking theology and philosophy at the National Major Seminary in Dhaka, he was ordained a priest in Bonpara in 1980. He obtained a doctorate in moral theology in Rome in 1991.

The new bishop has served as a parish priest in several Rajshahi parishes and as rector in the minor seminaries in Dinajpur and Dhaka dioceses. In addition, he was vice rector at the National Major Seminary and taught in the department of world religions at Dhaka University. He has worked with youths, and on health and natural family planning issues, and has contributed to various Church publications.

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