Though much about the Catholic Church can be opaque to outsiders, if there’s one thing most ordinary people get, it’s that being a cardinal is a big deal - it means a higher profile, more influence and direct access to the pope, and being one step away from the top job yourself.
The south Asia nation of Bangladesh, which got its first-ever Prince
of the Church last November, is a good reminder, as the new-found
prominence of Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario may have played a role in
prompting Pope Francis to elevate the cradle of the faith in the country
to an Archdiocese.
On February 2, the pontiff raised the Diocese of Chittagong to the
status of a Metropolitan Archdiocese, and, at the same time, designated
Bishop Moses Costa its first Archbishop.
D’Rozario of Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, told Crux seeing this happen was a longtime personal dream.
“Personally, in the millennium Jubilee [of 2000], I had dreamed and
hoped for this, and the bishops’ conference applied for it,” he said.
“Now it’s a reality, [bringing] a sense of deep gratitude and joy.”
D’Rozario explained that Christianity actually began in Bangladesh in
Chittagong, the country’s second city, in 1537, and the country’s first
churches were built there after Portuguese missionaries and traders
arrived in 1598.
He offered two basic explanations for why acknowledging the
importance of Chittagong is important in this overwhelmingly Muslim
nation, where Christians make up less than one percent of the population
of 170 million.
“In the Great Jubilee year of 2000, we did a history study of the
history of Christianity in Bangladesh and in particular of Chittagong,
which is the foundation of Christianity of Bangladesh,” he said.
The city is important to the development of Catholicism not only in
Bangladesh but across the region, D’Rozario said, noting that it’s given
birth to four or five dioceses in Myanmar and three in India.
“Secondly and importantly, Chittagong is the second capital of
Bangladesh and the elevation as an archdiocese with the archbishop is
significant for Church/state relationships. As Archbishop, [Costa] can
play a bigger role because of his position,” D’Rozario said.
The Bangladeshi cardinal said this is more than a juridical move, but
rather a sign of papal affection that will have an impact on the faith.
“Having a Metropolitan Archdiocese will animate the faith of the people,” he said.
“The people are already strongly rooted in the faith, and this
recognition of the history of Chittagong will also bestow a sense of
pride and joy, a sense of dignity and identity, and will be a great
impetus to the faith,” he said.
For his part, Costa said he’s “humbled and honored by the elevation, describing it as “a big responsibility.”
“[Becoming] archbishop will better facilitate and enhance relations
with civil authorities and also for interreligious dialogue,” he said.
Costa echoed D’Rozario’s point about Church/state ties, saying, “As
Archbishop, I will have more ‘fortitude’ to develop relations with the
Pope Francis is scheduled to visit Bangladesh as well as India sometime later this year.