Vatican City, Nov 19, 2016 / 07:36 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- After becoming the first prelate from Bangladesh to ever get a red hat, newly-elevated Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario said his country is waiting for the Pope’s visit in 2017, which will not only rejuvenate the Church, but will help strengthen interfaith ties.
Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh will be “a great event for the whole Church in the country, especially for interreligious harmony, the rights of government workers and for climate change,” Cardinal D’Rozario told journalists Nov. 19, after being elevated as cardinal earlier that day.
“He’s a kind of ‘spiritual guru,’ the Holy Father,” the cardinal said, predicting the visit will “boost-up the spirituality, the communion of all the people.”
When asked when the Pope’s Bangladesh visit will take place, the new cardinal joked “I’m going to take him there right now!” Turning practical, he said that due to the country’s hot season and monsoon season, the trip will likely take place in the second half of 2017 at the end of the year.
Cardinal D’Rozario, the Archbishop of Dhaka, was one of 17 priests and bishops to be made a cardinal by Pope Francis during a special consistory Saturday, set to coincide with the close of the Jubilee of Mercy.
True to the Pope’s style, many of the new cardinals named by Francis come from small countries or islands that have never before had a cardinal, as well as from countries which present particular challenges in terms of pastoral outreach, such as those stricken with violence or persecution.
Cardinal D’Rozario is the first-ever cardinal from Bangladesh. Other countries with their first cardinal include the Central African Republic, Mauritius Island, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Lesotho and Albania.
Speaking to journalists, the cardinal said the Pope’s visit to Bangladesh will also serve as a stimulus to strengthen community bonds weakened by recent acts of terrorism.
On July 1 Islamic terrorists laid siege to a restaurant in Bangladesh, killing 20 people. The attack took place just as Muslims in the midst of the month of Ramadan were about to break their fast at sundown.
According to Cardinal D’Rozario, such attacks “are very foreign to our culture,” which has enjoyed interreligious harmony and dialogue “for many, many years. So this is something foreign.”
He noted how for the past nine months he has been working with the government and other religious leaders in the country “in order to build that communion again.”
The cardinal also reflected on his feelings about his elevation to the College of Cardinals. When he first got the news, he said, “I could not believe it, I could not accept it.” He said he was moved by the letter Pope Francis sent him, in which the pontiff emphasized that “when the people come and wish you and greet you, remember the Lord is gazing on you. He is up there gazing, looking at you.”
Another of the new cardinals is Cardinal Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui in the Central African Republic. The country was Pope Francis’ first stop last November as part of his tour of Africa.
For Cardinal Nzapalainga, the consistory “is a very great day for us,” particularly “because the Pope came to Central Africa to open the Holy Door.”
In an unprecedented move, the Pope jump-started the Jubilee of Mercy by opening the Holy Door in Bangui Nov. 29, 10 days before the Holy Year officially began. Not only did it mark the first time a Pope had opened a Holy Door outside of Rome, but the act was also seen as a strong sign of solidarity with the war-torn country.
The Central African Republic’s president Faustin-Archange Touadéra, was also present for the consistory alongside the President of the Assembly, the lower house of the country’s parliament, and the country’s Imam.
Given the presence of both religious and governmental leaders at his official elevation ceremony, Cardinal Nzapalainga said, “we think that it’s something more than for us, it’s something for the whole Church in Africa and the whole country.”