On December 1, 2017, religions were united in Bangladesh against hatred, corruption, poverty, and violence. Pope Francis stressed this during an inter-religious and ecumenical prayer for peace, in the gardens of the Archbishopric of Dhaka, prayed by representatives of Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist communities, as well as by Christian Confessions and Civil Authorities.
On the second day of his Apostolic Journey to the country, the Pope took part in this event, which he several times stressed as “important,” since his arrival on Bangladeshi soil. The meeting took place at 5:00 pm local time (12 o’clock in Rome). It opened with hymns and traditional dances, while the Pontiff arrived in a rickshaw pulled by a bike.
The Pontiff took his place under a large tent, where a song for peace was sung in Bengali, after the greetings of the Archbishop of Dhaka, Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, and of Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian representatives.
Then the Holy Father gave an address, hoping that this meeting will be “a clear sign of the efforts of leaders and adherents, of the religions present in this country, to live together in mutual respect and goodwill.” “In Bangladesh, where the right of religious freedom is a fundamental principle, may this engagement be a respectful but firm appeal to those that seek to foment divisions, hatred, and violence in the name of religion,” he said.
In particular, Francis invited to live “religious solicitude for the good of our neighbor,” which “runs as a vast river, watering the arid lands and deserts of hatred, of corruption, of poverty and of violence, which so degrade human lives, divide families and disfigure the gift of Creation.”
The Poor, Refugees and Persecuted Minorities
The Pontiff appealed to “give a hand to the other in an attitude of mutual trust and understanding, to build a unity that includes diversity not as a menace, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth,” and to exercise “openness of the heart, in order to see others as a way, not as an obstacle.” “Openness of the heart” is “a door,” he stressed.
“As our world is in need of this heart that beats forcefully, to counteract the virus of political corruption, destructive religious ideologies, the temptation to close one’s eyes in face of the needs of the poor, of refugees, of persecuted minorities and of the most vulnerable! he continued. This openness is necessary to receive people of our world, especially the young, who sometimes feel alone and disconcerted in their search for the meaning of life!”
Appealing to his wishes “for an ever more human, united and peaceful world, “ the Holy Father said: “I open my heart to you all, and I thank you once again for your welcome.”
By way of conclusion of the meeting, the Anglican Archbishop of Dhaka, Monsignor Philip Sarka, recited an ecumenical prayer.
In the framework of this event, Pope Francis greeted 16 Rohingyas – Muslim minority persecuted in Burma – from Cox’s Bazar, accompanied by two translators of Caritas. The group, applauded by the crowd, went up to the podium where the Pope was. He greeted them one by one, listening to their stories with the aid of an interpreter.
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester
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