John Paul II's Apostolic Visit to Bangladesh
19th November 1986
Blessed Pope John Paul II's Address at the Welcome Ceremony
International Airport of Dacca - in English & Italian
"Your Excellency the President of the Republic, Dear Friends,
1. I am indeed happy that the first stage of my present journey brings me today to Bangladesh. As an independent and sovereign nation Bangladesh is a young country. As a people you have a long history and ancient traditions which bind you in a common identity. I thank the Most High God for enabling me to make this visit as a brother: a brother in our common humanity; a brother in our adoration of the “one God, living and enduring, merciful and all-powerful, who has made heaven and earth, and has spoken to men”; a brother in human solidarity, listening to the voice of humanity crying out all over the world for dignity, justice and peace.
I am grateful to the President and Government of Bangladesh on the one hand, and to the Catholic Bishops on the other, for their kind invitation and their assistance in making this visit possible. Already in 1979 an invitation was extended to me and since then I have been looking forward to this moment. As a young nation you are striving to consolidate your national identity, to make your country a land in which all citizens can feel equally at home and can enjoy a just opportunity to share in the task of building up the national community.
2. I come among you as a pilgrim to the "soul” of the Bangladeshi people. Your ancient culture reflects contacts with many religions, traditions, races and languages. You are rightly proud of a rich heritage in the arts, particularly in literature and music. Your people are sustained by a firm faith in God. In his Providence they seek the meaning of their lives and the strength to live in harmony with each other and in respect for his will.
Many linguistic, cultural and religious groups live side by side. Hence among yourselves you are called to exemplify tolerance and openness. And the recent history of your nation’s search for independence proves that all sectors of the population can fruitfully join in achieving the goals of a just and peaceful society.
3. My visit has, above all. a religious significance. I come as a religious pilgrim in a spirit of fraternal love and esteem for all. I greet my brethren of the Islamic faith, aware of the bonds that unite us in obedience to the one, all powerful God and Creator, the Lord of our lives. I cordially greet the followers of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, and all men and women of good will. May the spirit of our meeting be one of harmony, peace and brotherhood.
In fulfilling my responsibilities within the Catholic Church, I come as a witness to the Christian faith and as the guarantor of unity among my Catholic brothers and sisters. In particular it is my mission to confirm the faith of my brother bishops, and of the priests, religious and laity of the Catholic community. In the love of our Lord Jesus Christ I also greet the members of the other Christian communities. In the spirit of fellowship which the Gospel teaches, I encourage all to continue in joyful service of the nation and in responsible collaboration with their fellow citizens in the immense task of development.
4. Before all of you present here, and before the entire Bangladeshi people, I express the fervent hope and prayer that your country may go steadily forward: in respect for the dignity of every individual, in the health and happiness of your families, in the strengthening of the country’s wholesome institutions and social structures, in the commitment of all its citizens to the common good, and in the worship of the all merciful God in spirit and in truth, in freedom and love.
May the Almighty and Merciful God bless Bangladesh!"
"How great is your name, O Lord our God, through all the earth."
"Dear Archbishop Michael Rozario and the other Bishops of Bangladesh, Dear Bishops of Burma, Dear Brothers and Sisters,
1. Through all the earth, in every country, among every people, the name of the Most High God is known and adored. No less so in Bangladesh. In this land in which we are gathered for the celebration of the Eucharist, man, and every creature that God has placed in his power - in the words of the Psalm: "all of them, sheep and cattle, yes, even the savage beasts, birds of the air, and fish that make their way through the waters" - all proclaim the glory of the one God and praise his holy name.
Brothers and sisters of Bangladesh: people of different races, languages and religions, let us join together, as members of the same human family, in adoring the Most Merciful God: How great is your name, O God, through all the earth!
Brother bishops, dear priests, men and women religious, and lay people of Bangladesh: I thank the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has made it possible for me to celebrate this Holy Mass in your midst, in your own land. You are a "little flock", but you are very close to the heart of the Successor of Peter.
Distinguished men and women of Bangladesh, representatives of Government and public life, religious leaders and representatives of the world of culture and the arts: I thank you for your presence and for the warm welcome you have given me. I speak to you as a brother, as one deeply concerned for the fate of humanity, as a pilgrim of peace and a seeker of justice according to God’s will.
2. Who is it that gives praise and glory to God? It is the entire universe, every creature. But above all it is man who acknowledges and adores his Creator. For this very purpose all things have been put under his control. As the Psalm says: "You have made him little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet".
Commenting on this principle, the Second Vatican Council teaches that "man, created in God’s image, received a mandate to subject to himself the earth and all that it contains, and to govern the world with justice and holiness, a mandate to relate himself and the totality of things to him who was to be acknowledged as the Lord and Creator of all. So, by the subjection of all things to man, the name of God would be wonderful in all the earth."
Man’s task in this world, therefore, is "to make life more human and to render the whole earth submissive to this goal". In this sense man is lord of all material reality. Indeed, he is the "priest" of the cosmos, whose duty it is to proclaim, in the name of all creatures, the adorable greatness of the Almighty and to give the entire universe back to the Creator as a pleasing sacrifice.
In this universal religious perspective man’s great and inalienable dignity is immediately recognisable. Where this dignity is marred by poverty, hunger and disease, a lack of proper living conditions and of opportunities for education and work, the conscience of the world needs to be alerted to the duty of defending God’s image in man. In Bangladesh too, professionals and leaders have ample scope for the service of their fellow citizens, in building a just society and in responding to the urgent needs of so many people. Motivated and inspired by true human, moral and religious values they can give new direction and impulse to the task of development and progress.
3. In the broad setting of man’s duty to serve his fellowman and to give glory to God, this ceremony of priestly ordination assumes a particular significance. 18 sons of this land are being given a share in the ministerial priesthood of Jesus Christ, Prophet, Priest and King of the new and eternal Covenant. Through the anointing of the Holy Spirit they are being set apart for the building up of God’s people through a specific ministry and service of love. Above all, these young men, who are our brothers, are being empowered to act in the person of Christ, offering the Eucharistic Sacrifice on behalf of all the people (cf Lumen Gentium, 10).
Do you realize, dear candidates, the dignity and responsibility that will be yours? You have been preparing for this moment of grace for many years. With trust in Christ and in the loving protection of Mary, commit yourselves whole-heartedly to the task now being laid on your shoulders.
4. The ministerial priesthood is conferred on those who have received a particular grace from God. It is a special vocation and requires a personal call: "No one takes this honour upon himself, but he is called by God".
The vocation of Jeremiah narrated in the first reading is a type and model of every special vocation: "Before you were born I consecrated you: I appointed you.. I am with you." (Jer 1, 5-8)
In the inner experience of each priest and of each brother and sister in the consecrated life there is an awareness of that personal call from God, an awareness which is produced under the impulse of grace and steadily grows into that certainty of which Saint Paul says: "I know him in whom I have believed and I am confident". This certainty is the certainty of being loved, personally and uniquely, by Christ, the Shepherd of our souls. The Gospel reading recalls those words of Jesus at the Last Supper: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you, abide in my love." All of Christ’s disciples hear these words in their hearts. But they are heard with dramatic effect by those who receive a share in the ministry of the Apostles, for to them Jesus says in a special way: "You are my friends . . . No longer do I call you servants . . . I chose you and appointed you that you should go forth and bear fruit". (Jn 15, 14-16)
It is important for perseverance and fruitfulness in the priestly ministry that we never lose contact with the person who spoke these words. What does Christ expect from you, his friends? He looks for your love. "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." And then he shows how far this love should go: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." Of this love Jesus himself gave the perfect example, and every time that you celebrate the Eucharist you will recall and renew his saving Sacrifice for the glory of the Father and the salvation of the world.
Your service to the community will take many forms, and all of them must express this love. When you preach the word of life and administer the sacraments of faith, when you travel up and down this land to reach your brothers and sisters in need, when you heal the soul, when you educate and encourage the young, when you help to consolidate development and peace with justice and compassion for all, let love be your inspiration and your strength. Then you will bear "fruit that abides", which nurtures the divine life of souls and the vitality of the community of God’s people, the "Body of Christ", to which the second reading refers.
St Paul’s exhortation in that reading - "to live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love" - is directed to the "building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ". In other words, the life of the Church in Bangladesh is intimately linked to the strength of your love for Christ.
5. The words of St Paul find their echo in the theme chosen for this visit of mine: Communion and Brotherhood. What better programme of priestly ministry than for these newly ordained priests and for the entire Church in Bangladesh to make a resolution to strengthen the bonds that unite the disciples of Christ in the communion of the "one body and one Spirit . . . one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all"; and, at the same time, to build up and strengthen the bonds of brotherhood, freedom, harmony and justice throughout the entire national community.
6. You must try to show your Muslim brethren and the followers of the other religious traditions that your Christian faith, far from weakening your sense of pride in your homeland and your love for her, helps you to prize and respect the culture and heritage of Bangladesh. It inspires you to face the challenges of the present day with love and responsibility.
Just over a year ago I had the pleasure of addressing a large gathering of Muslim young people at Casablanca in Morocco. I spoke to them, as I now speak to the young people of Bangladesh, of the many things that Christians and Muslims have in common as human beings and as believers. I stressed that "dialogue between Christians and Muslims is today more necessary than ever".
The Catholic Church is committed to a path of dialogue and collaboration with the men and women of good will of every religious tradition. We have many spiritual resources in common which we must share with one another as we work for a more human world. Young people especially know how to be open with each other and they want a world in which all basic freedoms, including freedom of religious belief, will be respected. Sometimes Christians and Muslims fear and distrust one another as a result of past misunderstanding and conflict. This is also true in Bangladesh. Everyone, especially the young, must learn always to respect one another’s religious beliefs and to defend freedom of religion, which is the right of every human being.
7. The words of Christ are repeated today in this land: "As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you." He speaks these words to you young men chosen for the priesthood! To all of you who are the Church in Bangladesh! He speaks them to everyone who lives in this land! And he then goes on to say: Abide in the love of Christ!
This is the fervent wish and prayer of the Successor of Peter who visits you today. Abide in the love of Christ! Keep his commandments, just as Christ kept his Father’s commandments and so abides in his love.
Dear brothers and sisters: abide in the love of the Father! In the love of God! "So that your joy may be full". Amen."
Blessed John Paul II's Address to representatives of the Catholic Church
- in Dacca - in English & Italian
"Dear Friends, Distinguished representatives of the religious and public life of Bangladesh,
1. During this brief visit that God is enabling me to make to your country, I am particularly happy to have the opportunity to speak to this gathering of representatives of many different sectors of life in Bangladesh. With profound joy and sentiments of good will I greet each one of you. I truly hope by our meeting to confirm you in the spirit of "Communion and Brotherhood", which you have chosen as the theme of this visit. "Communion and Brotherhood " expresses my own feelings towards the people of Bangladesh.
The journey which is beginning here in Bangladesh will take me to Singapore, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and the Seychelles. What is my purpose in making these visits? In the first place they have a profound ecclesial meaning for the Catholic communities throughout the world. Secondly, they are meant to carry forward the Catholic Church’s commitment to sincere and loyal dialogue with other religious traditions concerning the common spiritual and human destiny which we all share. Thirdly, by visiting the different parts of the world I wish to alert men and women of good will to the grave challenges that the human family faces in the final years of the 20th century.
2. First of all. then, my visit is to the Catholic community. The Church is a community of faith and Christian life in fidelity to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ. Her members belong to every race and nation, and they reflect every social condition. Without abandoning or weakening their membership of a particular nation and culture, they are united with one another by a universal spiritual bond. This "koinonia" or communion of the members of the Church is not just an attitude of spiritual solidarity; it is primarily a sharing in certain gifts with which Christ has endowed the Church through the Spirit which he pours out into our hearts.
The Second Vatican Council lists some of these gifts: Sacred Scripture, our Trinitarian belief, the Sacraments, the life of grace, faith, hope and charity, and other charisms. Through these gifts we enter into union with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and into communion with one another. This communion has a "permanent and visible source and foundation of unity" in the Successor of Peter. Today the Lord has enabled me, the latest in the long line of Popes, to be present among you in person, in order to confirm your faith and fellowship. Herein lies the deepest meaning of my visit to the Catholic community of Bangladesh.
To you, then, bishops, priests, men and women religious, seminarians and representatives of the laity of Bangladesh I wish to repeat the words of Saint Paul: "We give thanks to God for you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope".
In speaking to the members of the Catholic Church in Bangladesh I am conscious of the spiritual, cultural and social setting in which you live and work. For a number of years you have been examining your pastoral and charitable activities in relation to the needs of the Church and the nation. In this respect the teachings and guidelines of the Second Vatican Council constitute an essential point of reference for the entire Church in fulfilling her mission in the present circumstances of history and of the world. The correct application of the Council’s directives, many of which have been supplemented by later documents of the Holy See, requires much courage and planning on the part of the whole ecclesial community.
3. The "Pastoral Plan for the Church in Bangladesh", published by your Bishops’ Conference at Pentecost 1985, identifies a number of challenges that the Church faces. Each of you has a distinctive contribution to make in responding to them. You feel a need for greater coordination at the local, diocesan and national levels in programmes of formation and pastoral action. This is a requirement not only of external organization but also and especially of the spiritual communion which unites you in the Lord. In particular you feel a need for the specific role of the laity in the life and work of the Church to be fully recognized and put into practice. You also desire to be ever closer to all the people of Bangladesh, to the cultural and social conditions of your fellow citizens. You are concerned, and rightly so, to be present among them in all their strivings.
4. To all the priests, I wish to offer a special word of encouragement. You have been configured to Christ in a particular way by the grace of ordination, and you must try each day to reflect more and more the meekness and love of that Heart which was moved to compassion by the multitudes. Support one another through prayer and through the example of your generous priestly life and ministry. Heed the words of the Apostle: "Do not be conformed to the spirit of this world". As true pastors of the people entrusted to you, teach them to assume their proper role in the ecclesial and civil communities. For my part each day I will pray for you to Mary, Mother of the Church and our Mother, and our companion on the path of discipleship.
5. In the words of the Apostle I would exhort the men and women religious of Bangladesh always to "walk in newness of life" according to their special charism within the ecclesial community. With hearts filled with joy, you must continue to serve the Church in this country with generosity and self-sacrifice. Be mindful always of your identity and of your dignity. All that you do in the service of others assumes a special meaning because of what you are: people who have left all in order to make the unfathomable love of Christ the whole substance of your lives.
6. I extend a special greeting also to the seminarians of Bangladesh. May you experience in the depths of your hearts the attractiveness and power of Christ’s call: "If you would be perfect... come, follow me." Prepare yourselves carefully for the priestly tasks that await you. And know that the Pope loves you and prays for you.
7. Dear lay people of Bangladesh: you will not be surprised that the first thought of the Pope in your regard is one of solidarity in the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a joy for me to know of your enthusiasm to grow in faith and love so as better to fulfil your role in the Church and the world. You are a "little flock" and many of you are poor. You struggle with the natural limitations and manmade difficulties of your existence in this land. You know that in spite of these circumstances the Lord calls you to lives of holiness and peace.
Holiness of life means giving God first place in your thoughts and actions; it means respecting his will for your family life and being truthful and just in your dealings with each other. Holiness means taking time to pray; it means love of neighbour, forgiveness of those who offend you, and patience in the trials of life. It means growing in the knowledge of the faith, in piety and in obedience to the eternal Father.
Peace means that you will live in brotherhood with all; that you will try to share each other’s burdens, that you will collaborate in the work of progress and development, that you will seek to promote harmony and mutual respect among all members of the nation. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ: I urge you to stand firm in the hope to which you have been called. Remember that the whole Church looks to you with love and supports you in a prayerful union of hearts.
8. Young people of Bangladesh: you more than anyone else are called to help shape the world in which you live. The future belongs to you. And yet you can often feel frustrated or disillusioned. You long for a better world, yet age-old selfishness continues to prevail. Sometimes you do not know where to begin to change things for the better. But if you were to lose heart, however enormous the tasks before you, you would be condemning yourselves and your generation to perpetuate the very situation that demands improvement.
I would like to remind you of the young man in the Gospel, full of good will, who approached Jesus and asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Good Teacher! You too need good teachers who will lead you to what is good, along the paths of truth, life and love, away from every form of deceit, hatred or violence; teachers who will lead you to God. And Jesus replies to the young man: "No one is good but God alone." In fact, as I wrote concerning this very passage on the occasion of the International Youth Year: "Without reference to God, the whole world of created values remains as it were suspended in an absolute vacuum. It also loses its transparency, its expressiveness. Evil is put forward as a good and good itself is rejected. Are we not shown this by the experience of our own time...?"
The final part of this Gospel narrative shows how much depends on your own willingness to do your part. The young man went away sad. He did not have the courage to commit himself to Christ’s work. You, though, must be willing to serve the well-being of your brothers and sisters in this land, by using your youthful energies to the full. In this way you will be expressing the authenticity of your faith and you will set a noble goal to your endeavours.
In the great enterprise of seeking just solutions of the sufferings and needs of your fellow citizens, young people of all faiths should be open to each other in a spirit of collaboration and mutual esteem. Young people of Bangladesh, assume your role in the development of your country. Prepare yourselves diligently for the challenges that call you to contribute the best of yourselves to the service of your people and of your homeland.
9. Distinguished representatives of all religious beliefs, men and women of Bangladesh: my message concerns the sublime dignity of every human being in God’s plan for the human family. There is a growing conviction that something must urgently be done to secure the peace and development that are the conditions for a better future for the whole human race. We are painfully aware that man’s God-given dignity, and even survival itself, are gravely threatened. The political and ideological tensions between East and West, and the economic and social tensions between North and South, as well as the many forms of violence, injustice and inequality, are a present and growing threat to human rights and human dignity.
I pray constantly that the harmony of mind demonstrated at the recent meeting of prayer at Assisi – where the leaders of the Churches and Christian Communions and the other religions of the world gathered to implore the gift of peace from God – will grow from day to day until all individuals and all peoples are reconciled in love. We who believe in the almighty power of the Most High God must be convinced that, with his help, peace and reconciliation are possible. Indeed it is his will that we work together to bring these about.
10. With particular respect I greet the sick and the poor, those here present and those who were unable to come. In you I see the face of suffering humanity. I think of those many people, young and old, in every land, whose lives are marked by pain and want. In you I see the face of the suffering Christ, the “man of sorrows", who offers to the Father his suffering and death as "the cup of salvation". Often, through your pain you have learned to be more human and more sensitive to the needs of others. In this way you have grown in dignity. That is why Jesus could say "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied". (Lk 6, 20-21)
This does not mean that you should not seek genuine liberation from life’s sorrows. Nor does it mean that society can forget its very strict obligations in your regard. Rather, it means that your needs are not your concern alone; they are the very voice of God telling the world that it will be judged on the way it meets these needs on the justice, mercy and love that it shows to you. I pray that you will indeed experience the effective solidarity of which you stand in need. Above all I hope that the citizens of this land will not rest until the values of justice, mercy and love prevail. May the Most High God sustain and strengthen you all.
11. Dear friends: my brief stay among you is coming to an end. I therefore wish to express once more my gratitude to the Government and to the Church in Bangladesh for everything that has been done to make this visit possible. It was my wish to know your country more closely. I shall take away with me the memory of a people seeking to honour the Creator and to attain a better future for themselves and their children. May you all be united in working for this goal. May Almighty God bless each one of you!"
Blessed John Paul II's Words to 4 Bishops of the Bangladeshi Nation
- in Dacca - in English & Italian
"Dear brother Bishops,
1. I thank God, the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, for this opportunity to renew the ecclesial communion and brotherhood which we experienced together during your ad limina visit last year. You came to the See of Peter to manifest your apostolic faith. Now, with immense joy, the Successor of Peter comes to your own land to confirm and strengthen you in your service of the Gospel, which is "the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith".
This meeting is thus a spiritual continuation of your ad limina visit. At that time I spoke of the great mystery of the Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, called to proclaim in every age and to all peoples the saving work of Christ crucified and risen from the dead. We reflected together on the unity of the Church’s faith and discipline which is entrusted, above all, to the teaching and pastoral office of the bishop who is himself the visible source and foundation of unity in his local Church. We recognized the importance of the united action of the bishops and of the whole community in the service of the poor and the suffering, who are always with us to bear witness to the suffering Christ. We spoke of the Church’s desire to foster dialogue with non-Christians, and in particular with our Muslim brethren who constitute the vast majority of the people of this country.
2. My presence among you today is meant to be a sign and a confirmation that you belong to the universal communion of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church, "which the Lord established on the Apostles and built upon blessed Peter, their chief, while Christ Jesus himself remained the supreme cornerstone". The entire Church is with you, and you are with the Church and in the Church. This bond of grace and divine love is manifest in the union of prayer and practical solidarity by which one part of the Church seeks to serve the others. The abundance of one part of God’s people involves a responsibility for meeting the needs of another part. I have called you a pusillus grex, for that is what you are. But no part of the Church can feel itself isolated or forgotten by the great family of those redeemed by Christ.
I wish to assure you that your hopes and aspirations, your burdens and sorrows find a special echo in my own heart. In my prayer I constantly offer you as a spiritual sacrifice to God, knowing that He will sustain you and give you increase.
3. The Church has been present in this region for over four centuries, and this year you are happily celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Diocese of Dhaka, now an Archdiocese. Against this background and in prayerful attention to what the "signs of the times" reveal regarding the "moment" which the Catholic community in Bangladesh is living, you have committed yourselves and your communities to achieving the goals of the "Pastoral Plan for the Church in Bangladesh". I wish to encourage you along this path. Above all I encourage you to work in unity, so that everyone in the Church in Bangladesh will come together in a renewed and more conscious sharing in the Church’s apostolate. As you yourselves wrote, you are indeed "at the threshold of a new Advent, a new moment of this grace and mission of service".
4. The final purpose of this ecclesial endeavour is none other than the Kingdom of God: "Seek first the Father’s kingdom and his righteousness". This is the content of Jesus’ redemptive mission which the Church continues in time. This is the essential message of the Church today. The Holy Spirit constantly gives fresh life and energy to the Christian community for the task of proclaiming Good News to the poor, release to the captives, and an acceptable year of the Lord. The generous individual and collective response of pastors and faithful to this "Good News", both within the ecclesial body itself and outwards towards the entire national community, constitutes the new Advent, the new moment of grace and mission of which you have written. The Churches over which you preside in charity will undoubtedly experience vitality and fruitfulness in the measure in which they are open to this evangelical challenge.
You are entrusted with a mission that goes far beyond a mere material enterprise and even beyond your human capacity to respond, and so you place your trust in Christ. You draw courage from the thought that the message you proclaim is in no way alien to the character and needs of your people. You proclaim justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. These are values which Christians are called to make "incarnate" in their lives and activities, as a testimony, so that the world may believe. These are values which are valid for all peoples in all ages. They are human aspirations concerning which the followers of different religious traditions and men and women of good will can and should enter into dialogue and collaboration. These are values which the contemporary world urgently needs.
5. As bishops you are aware of the importance of involving all the members of the Church in putting the Pastoral Plan into practice. You have asked everyone to take part and share in the responsibility.
Your Bangladeshi priests, as well as the missionary priests from other lands, are your closest collaborators. They should be the first ones to benefit from your pastoral solicitude and fraternal love. They preach the word of God and teach the faithful the truths of faith. They teach them the practice of the Christian life and what justice demands. They encourage families to respond to their Christian calling in the service of love and life. They watch over the welfare of children and the Christian formation of youth. They seek out the sheep that has gone astray and bring the Gospel message to those who have not yet heard it. They are often obliged to carry out their ministry in materially and spiritually difficult situations. For each one of them you are teacher, father, brother and friend. You have a sacred duty to esteem and support them, to pray for them and see to their spiritual advancement: you must always be readily available to them with kindness and evangelical charity.
The Christian communities of Bangladesh are small, and live in the midst of a large non-Christian population. The priests are often isolated and their activities are many and varied. It is therefore especially important to seek ways of fostering a deep sense of communion among priests, both diocesan and religious, so that they have a real and personal share in the whole life of the diocese. If they maintain an interest in theological study and continue pastoral formation, they will more easily meet the new challenges which their apostolate constantly brings. In all of this the bishop’s word and witness are of the greatest importance for the good of his presbyterium as a whole and of each individual priest member.
6. The bishop has to concern himself with the well-being of the men and women religious who collaborate with him in the service of God’s people. Through the health-care, charitable and educational activities carried out by the Religious Congregations in your country, the Church is present in a visible and helpful way, even to non-Christians. Your particular Churches are consolidated and built up by the religious, who witness to the primacy of the love of Jesus by the faithful observance of their vows. Religious life in fact is a "divine gift" to the Church. The bishop must therefore promote and encourage vocations, and show his support by often visiting communities and respecting their specific charisms.
One of the most positive signs of the vitality of the Church in your country is the increasing numbers of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life. Thus the Lord is indeed responding to your needs. He is sending labourers into his harvest to make up for the scarcity of workers for the Gospel which you have felt so deeply.
This grace represents a responsibility for all concerned: a responsibility for the appropriate selection and training of candidates. Time and effort spent in giving them an adequate preparation for the ecclesial tasks ahead is never too much. I encourage you to make this one of your first concerns. There is also the responsibility for using the energies and talents of religious communities in an organized pastoral programme of action.
7. As bishops, you are heralds of God’s love for his people. In your ministry you seek to express the compassion that Jesus had for the crowds. Thus, while you point the way to final happiness in the Father’s house, you are concerned to stimulate the Christian community to serve the poor and the less fortunate in their immediate needs, and you endeavour to guide the faithful in the task of promoting greater justice in human affairs.
The whole Church "recognizes in the poor and the suffering the likeness of her poor and suffering Founder. She does all she can to relieve their need and in them she strives to serve Christ". The Church in Bangladesh feels called to such service in an eminent way. She lives in constant awareness of the needs of the nation. She herself is a community of "little ones".
In your pastoral Plan you have indicated the service of the poor - in all the forms that material and spiritual poverty assumes - as a priority in the Church’s service. This in an area in which no lasting results can be obtained without the "skilful concern and attention of the laity". In this you will seek to favour "the unmistakable work of the Holy Spirit in making the laity today even more conscious of their own responsibility and inspiring them everywhere to serve Christ and the Church".
8. Whatever is done for the spiritual and professional training of lay men and women willing to work for the renewal of the temporal order constitutes a great service to the nation and the Church. Catholic education, specialized programmes of formation for the laity, training for leadership both within the ecclesial community and in society in general are a genuine contribution to the nation’s development. By cooperating with their fellow citizens, the members of the Church seek to build society on the bases of the dignity and inalienable rights of every human person, on justice, and on a real solidarity among individuals and groups. They do this through personal conviction and a sense of responsibility inspired by the Gospel and by Christ’s command to love and serve one’s neighbour.
You are acutely aware of the important role of young people in building the future of the Church and of society. In many ways they are the special object of your pastoral concern. New ideas and changing social and cultural conditions deeply affect them. They need understanding and sure guidance. I earnestly encourage you and the priests and religious to be close to them, to help them to find the truth and to live in holiness.
9. Finally, there are two thoughts which I wish to share with you regarding your pastoral care of God’s people. First, the vitality and Christian hope of your communities depend upon a real commitment to prayer. The Church in Bangladesh must be a Church that prays. In the Lord’s Prayer we can all recognize our deepest aspirations and the certainty of God’s loving response.
To praise the Father, to acknowledge his will, to implore his gifts and blessings: these are the profound realities of our lives which we express in hopefilled prayer. As bishops, you are called to give an example of spiritual maturity. You invite and encourage your priests and all your collaborators to pray. You teach the faithful to do so, both as individuals and as a community gathered to celebrate the mysteries of faith. In such a prayerful community the Holy Spirit cannot but pour forth his gifts of light, strength and courage for the present tasks and the challenges of the future.
10. The other reflection which I convey to you concerns the wonderful and inspiring truth of the catholicity and universal nature d Christ’s Church. The Church spread throughout the world is the one visible Body of Christ. All the particular Churches are united with one another and with the See of Peter. Furthermore, in the "Communion of Saints" we share in each other’s riches of grace beyond the frontiers of time and space. Through catechesis and the preaching of the word this thought can penetrate the spiritual and ecclesial outlook of all your people. They will then feel more truly a part of the great mystery of the Church. They will be strengthened and encouraged. They will see local realities in the light of the universal call to holiness and salvation.
11. My dear brother bishops: I commend you and your people to the loving intercession of Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church. May she who knew how to keep the workings of God’s saving providence, pondering them in her heart, help you to read the "signs" of God’s favour upon your people. May she help you to nourish your people with the Eucharist and the word of God, and lead them to eternal life.
In the communion of apostolic service, I assure you of my fraternal support, and I invoke from the Father every good gift upon you, your priests, religious, and laity. "My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.""
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