Cardinal-designate in Bangladesh connects with people in grass roots

Cardinal-designate Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, pictured in a 2015 photo, will be one of 17 new cardinals consecrated by Pope Francis at a Vatican consistory Nov. 19. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Dhaka)

Cardinal-designate Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, pictured in a 2015 photo, will be one of 17 new cardinals consecrated by Pope Francis at a Vatican consistory Nov. 19. (CNS photo/courtesy Archdiocese of Dhaka)

By Saadia Azim Catholic News Service

KOLKATA, India (CNS) — Cardinal-designate Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, Bangladesh, is known for his work on the peripheries of society, his associates said.

The 73-year-old church leader is known for his deep connection with the people in the grass roots in Bangladesh and neighboring India. For instance, he has helped guide farmers addressing climate change in a country susceptible to frequent natural calamities.

“The nomination by the Holy Father is actually the recognition to countries of the periphery,” said Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Kolkata. “Archbishop D’Rozario is the first Bengali-speaking cardinal, and so (the appointment was) a moment of great joy for the community in this part of the world.”

The cardinal-designate, who will be elevated in a Nov. 19 consistory at the Vatican, was born in Padrishibpur, India, before it became part of Bangladesh, so he acknowledges his roots in both countries.

“My nomination is not a personal achievement but God’s love through the Holy Father for countries and people far away,” Cardinal-designate D’Rozario said. “This is a moment of opportunity as well as challenges.”

He said he planned to focus on ways to increase participation of the laity in church life and “create a common voice against (the) use of religion as a political tool.” Catholics form less than 1 percent of the population of predominantly Muslim Bangladesh.

Cardinal-designate D’Rozario has worked to build bridges between religious communities through interfaith dialogues in a country that has witnessed a spate in religious radicalism.

“Religion should not be the reason for division in the human society, but reason to develop spiritual dimensions that keep humans together,” he said.

He also explained that he would dedicate his religious knowledge to enriching the local church while building the universal church.

Sister Hima Mary, a member of the Associates of Mary, Queen of Apostles, who has worked in the archbishop’s office since 2014, said the cardinal-designate is known for his compassion.

“Every day you learn something new from him,” she told Catholic News Service. “He will not count mistakes of others, but helps better your skills every time. As we say in Bengali he is a ‘Mattir Manush,'(man of clay)” a phrase used to describe simple people.

His niece, Evon Agnes Mary, a teacher at Loreto school in Kolkata, described her uncle as “a preacher as well as a teacher. In the last 40 years of his association with the evangelical church he has been deeply involved with the common man. He inspires all of us.”

Pope Francis is expected to visit Bangladesh and India early next year, and the cardinal-designate is already at work to facilitate the trip.

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