Pope Francis lauds Bangladesh’s initiatives for inter-religious encounter

Pope Francis prays with Rohingya refugees and leaders of various religions in Dhaka during his visit to Bangladesh on Dec. 1, 2017. (Photo by Joe Torres)

Pope Francis this week lauded the “growing climate of inter-religious encounter and dialogue” in Bangladesh as he congratulated the nation on its 50th anniversary of independence.

"I trust that the growing climate of inter-religious encounter and dialogue … will continue to enable believers to express freely their deepest convictions about the meaning and purpose of life,” said the pontiff in a video message.

He said such initiative can be instrumental in “promoting the spiritual values that are the sure basis for a peaceful and just society.”

The pope recalled his apostolic visit to Bangladesh in August 2017 when he said he "had a first-hand experience” of the “cultural heritage and legacy" of the country.

Pope Francis said “the future of the democracy and health of the political life of Bangladesh are essentially linked to its founding vision and to the legacy of sincere dialogue and respect for legitimate diversity.”

He called on young people in Bangladesh “to devote yourselves anew to working for peace and prosperity for the noble nation that you represent.”

“I ask all of you to continue in your work of generosity and humanitarian outreach to the refugees, the poor, the underprivileged and those who have no voice,” said the pope.

“I join all of you in thanking God for the many blessings bestowed upon Bangladesh over these years," he said.

The pope noted two historical events in the life of the nation this year — the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence.

Pope Francis described "Bangladesh,” or “Golden Bengal,” as “a country of unique natural beauty and a modern nation that strives to join unity of language and culture with respect for the different traditions and communities within it."

He said it is one of the legacies of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who promoted a culture of dialogue, "marked by wisdom, insight and breadth of vision.”

The pope said the “Father of the Nation” knew that “it is only in such a pluralistic and inclusive society, in which every person could live in freedom, peace and security, that a more just and fraternal world can be built.”

He said Bangladesh "has always had a special place in the heart of the popes, who from the start have expressed solidarity with its people, sought to accompany them in overcoming initial adversities, and supported them in the demanding task of nation building and development."

Pope Francis expressed hope that "the good relations between the Holy See and Bangladesh will continue to flourish." - Joe Torres / LiCAS/RVA News

Pope Francis sends a video message to the people of Bangladesh marking two special occasions: the centenary of the birth of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of Bangladesh.