First Bangali cardinal prays at eastern India’s mother church
By C.M. Paul
Bandel: The first cardinal from Bangladesh visiting eastern India’s historic and oldest church on the New Year’s eve sent his message of peace and good will to people in West Bengal and Bangladesh.
“I wish all people on both sides of Bengal, both believers and people of all ethnic and religious groups, the blessings and guidance of the Blessed Mother,” Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, Archbishop of Dhaka, said after celebrating Mass at Church of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary at Bandel in Hooghly district in India’s West Bengal state.
The first Bengali cardinal from Bangladesh prayed at the historic and oldest church, considered the mother church of Catholics in the undivided Indian subcontinent’s eastern region. The Portuguese Augustinian friars built the church in 1599.
Cardinal D’Rozario is the first cardinal from Bengali-speaking people who inhabit Bangladesh and West Bengal state.
The 73-year old Holy Cross prelate was among 17 new cardinals created at a consistory on November 19 by Pope Francis.
The new cardinal concelebrated Mass at the Bandel church, with eight priests, including first Bengali Salesian provincial Father Nirmol Gomes and prior of Bandel Church Father T L Francis.
More than 200 faithful attended the celebration and individually greeted the cardinal and received his blessings.
The cardinal also blessed statues and musical fountain on the church premises recently installed by Church Art Kolkata.
The cardinal’s entourage comprised some 40 relatives from Bangladesh as well as Kolkata, including Bengali clergy from the archdiocese of Calcutta and priests from Salesian and Jesuit provinces of Kolkata.
“Bandel Church wears an extraordinary festive look marking the Christmas and New Year season which draws thousands of pilgrims and visitors – an apt welcome to the first Bengali cardinal,” said the prior of Bandel Church.
Welcoming the visitors at the entrance of the church at 10 am, the Salesian prior said the cardinal’s visit is an honor and recognition given to the Bengali community with a history of over 400 years.
Cardinal D’Rozario earlier served as Bishop of Rajshahi from 1990 to 1995, and then Bishop of Chittagong from 1995 to 2010, when Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Coadjutor Archbishop of Dhaka. He became the Archbishop of Dhaka the following year.
The present Bangladesh was part of India sub-continent until 1947 when Bengal was divided into East Bengal under Pakistan and West Bengal under India.
Bangladesh became an independent and sovereign nation after the 1971 war of liberation ending Pakistani rule over East Bengal.
“While Bangladesh rejoices over the new cardinal, it is only right that entire Bengali Catholic community should also give thanks to the graces bestowed upon this Diaspora community which once had a rich historical and Christian cultural heritage,” said Vicar General of Archdiocese of Calcutta Fr Dominic Gomes.
Archbishop D’Rozario, who was born on October 1, 1943, entered the Holy Cross ongregation and professed religious vows on June 14, 1962. He was ordained a priest ten years later on October 8, 1972, and served for many years in the Congregation’s apostolic and missionary works in Bangladesh.
On September 12, 1990, Fr. D’Rozario was ordained a bishop by Holy Cross Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly of Dhaka who has been declared a “Servant of God.”
The first cardinal from Bengal was Lawrence Trevor Picachy, a Eurasian, who died in 1992. He was the archbishop of Calcutta and one of the spiritual guides of Saint Mother Teresa.