Bangladesh officials met Thursday with delegates from The Vatican to discuss logistics for a visit by Pope Francis to the predominantly Muslim nation in South Asia being planned for later this year, a senior foreign ministry representative said.
In addition to Thursday’s discussions with members of the Holy See’s diplomatic mission in Dhaka, a team from The Vatican is scheduled to travel here in a couple of weeks to assess government preparations for a planned three-day visit, according to the president of the Bangladesh Christian Association.
“Our revered Pope is coming to Bangladesh by the end of November. We are not disclosing the specific date of his visit for security reasons, but it has been decided that he is coming to Bangladesh,” Mohammad Khourshed A. Khastagir, director general in charge of the European desk at the foreign ministry, told BenarNews.
“We are working out the details of the Pope’s visit. Today, a delegation of the Vatican mission (in Dhaka) came to the foreign ministry to discuss logistics issues,” Khastagir said.
Should the papal visit materialize, it would be only the second trip to this country of 160 million people by the head of the Roman Catholic church. John Paul II was the last pope to visit Bangladesh, in November 1986.
Pope Francis would be coming to a country grappling with emerging Islamic extremism. Terrorist attacks in recent years have targeted secular writers, foreigners as well as members of religious minorities and Bangladesh’s Christian community, which is less than half of 1 percent of the nation’s population.
In July, Bangladesh Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario discussed a possible visit by the pontiff. Last year, D’Rozario became his country’s first cardinal when Pope Francis elevated him to the second-highest rank in the Catholic Church.
“Vatican and Bangladesh officials have been discussing the proposed visit. The officials from both sides will announce it at the appropriate time,” D’Rozario told BenarNews at the time.
Late last month, a spokeswoman for the Press Office at the Holy See said a papal visit to Bangladesh was under study but the dates for a trip had not been confirmed.
Christians, others react
Nirmal Rozario, president of the Bangladesh Christian Association told BenarNews the tentative date for Pope Francis’ arrival is Nov. 30.
“We Christians are really excited to welcome our revered Pope in Dhaka. His visit is a historic one. I did not know whether I would get a chance to see the Pope in my lifetime,” Dilip Rozario, a Christian residing in Monipuripara in Dhaka, told BenarNews.
Other religious leaders look forward to the visit as well.
“Not only Christians, but also people from all religions will welcome the pope. His visit to Bangladesh will help to create a liberal and tolerant religious environment in this country,” Rana Das Gupta, the general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Unity Council told BenarNews recently.
The chairman of Bangladesh’s Islamic Unity Front echoed that sentiment.
“We welcome a great person like him. Bangladeshi people are always very hospitable. Muslims of this country will be happy with his visit here,” Misbahir Rahman Chowdhury told BenarNews.
“We can learn about his greatness from his speeches and comments that he made about Muslims, Palestine and Arab countries. We are really pleased with his speeches. We are waiting to welcome him in Bangladesh with warm wishes,” Chowdhury said in July.