In 1970, Blessed Paul VI made a stopover, lasting a few hours in the East Pakistan to express sympathy for victims of the devastating cyclone. In 1986 St John Paul II visited independent Bangladesh. From November 30 to December 2, 2017 will be the third visit of the Pope to the populous and impoverished country.
On his trip to Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, the Pope Francis is expected to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid and the other members of the diplomatic corps and civil society. He planned to pay respects at two national memorials and celebrate Mass for more than 100,000 people in Dhaka. There he will ordain 16 deacons to the priesthood.
A 46 year Vatican-Bangladesh relationship will be celebrated by the Pope Francis, said Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario (archbishop of Dhaka).
The Holy See (See of Rome is the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome), was among the first states to recognize Bangladesh after it gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 and established a diplomatic relations in 1973. When Bangladesh suffered from natural disasters and tragedies such as in 2013 Rana Plaza collapse which claimed more than 1,100 lives, the prelate noted past international expressions of sympathy.
Mufti Faizullah, a joint secretary of the group Hefazat-e-Islam (Protectors of Islam) said, “Pope Francis is the supreme leader of Christians and head of the Vatican state, so we welcome him in our country. We will be closely watching what he says and does during the trip. If we find anything unexpected and unacceptable, we will protest and issue statements if necessary.”This group has also attacked Christian evangelization in some areas. Since 2013, Islamic militants have murdered around fifty people while the government crackdown shows about seventy militants were killed and dozens arrested.
Maolana Fariduuddin Masoud, president of the liberal Muslim group Bangladesh Jamiyat-ul-Ulema (Council of Clerics), said “Pope Francis is a saintly figure and a global leader, so people are honored to have him in Bangladesh and they will offer him overwhelming love.”
Rana Dasgupta, a lawyer and Hindu leader in Dhaka said, “the papal visit would be a boon for religious harmony. Pope Francis’ trip will reinvigorate religious harmony and bring people of all faiths closer.”
Bangladesh is struggling to cope with refugees of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Cardinal D’Rozario said, “The pope is coming for harmony and peace, not for just Rohingya but for all. The pope will not just talk about Rohingya, but other persecuted people and maybe he will be critical of those who ‘shed crocodile’s tears’ for Rohingya but not for others, like Christians in the Middle East”.