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Pope Francis' address to the Diplomatic Corps and Civil Society in Bangladesh

November 30, 2017
Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid and Pope Francis talk during a courtesy visit at the presidential palace in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Nov. 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Upon arrival in Bangladesh, Pope Francis paid a courtesy visit to the President of the Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. Abdul Hamid at 5.30 pm local time. Upon arrival, the Pope was welcomed by the Military Secretary who accompanied him at the entrance of honor where the President awaited him. In the Credentials Hall there was a private meeting that ended with the presentation of family members and the exchange of gifts. Then the Pope and the President walked to the formal room where the meeting with the Authorities took place.
At 18.00 local time (13.00 in Rome), in the Presidential Palace in Dhaka, a meeting with political and religious authorities, members of the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of Civil Society took place. After the speech by the President of the Republic, Mr. Abdul Hamid, the Pope delivered his address. Then the Holy Father and the President returned to the Credentials Hall for the Signing of the Book of Honor. After the final greetings, the Pope travelled to the Apostolic Nunciature in Dhaka.
Here is the talk that the Pope’s address to the Diplomatic Corps and representatives of Civil Society:
Mr President,? Honourable State and Civil Authorities,?Your Eminence, My Brother Bishops, Distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the beginning of my stay in Bangladesh, I would like to thank you, Mr President, for the kind invitation to visit this country and for your gracious words of welcome. I come here in the footsteps of two of my predecessors, Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II, to pray with my Catholic brothers and sisters, and to offer them a message of affection and encouragement. Bangladesh is a young state, yet it 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. I am grateful for the opportunity to address this assembly, which brings together men and women with particular responsibilities for shaping the future of Bangladeshi society.
During my flight here, I was reminded that Bangladesh – “Golden Bengal” – is a country united by a vast network of rivers and waterways, great and small. That natural beauty is, I think, symbolic of your particular identity as a people. Bangladesh is a nation that strives to join unity of language and culture with respect for the different traditions and communities which, like so many streams, draw from, and return to enrich, the great current of the political and social life of the country.
In today’s world, no single community, nation or state can survive and make progress in isolation. As members of the one human family, we need one another and are dependent on one another. President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman understood and sought to embody this principle in the national Constitution. He envisioned a modern, pluralistic and inclusive society in which every person and community could live in freedom, peace and security, with respect for the innate dignity and equal rights of all. The future of this young democracy and the health of its political life are essentially linked to fidelity to that founding vision. For only through sincere dialogue and respect for legitimate diversity can a people reconcile divisions, overcome unilateral perspectives, and recognize the validity of differing viewpoints. Because true dialogue looks to the future, it builds unity in the service of the common good and is concerned for the needs of all citizens, especially the poor, the underprivileged and those who have no voice.
In recent months, the spirit of generosity and solidarity which is a distinguishing mark of Bangladeshi society has been seen most vividly in its humanitarian outreach to a massive influx of refugees from Rakhine State, providing them with temporary shelter and the basic necessities of life. This has been done at no little sacrifice. It has also been done before the eyes of the whole world. None of us can fail to be aware of the gravity of the situation, the immense toll of human suffering involved, and the precarious living conditions of so many of our brothers and sisters, a majority of whom are women and children, crowded in the refugee camps. It is imperative that the international community take decisive measures to address this grave crisis, not only by working to resolve the political issues that have led to the mass displacement of people, but also by offering immediate material assistance to Bangladesh in its effort to respond effectively to urgent human needs.
Although my visit is primarily addressed to Bangladesh’s Catholic community, a privileged moment will be my meeting tomorrow in Ramna with ecumenical and interreligious leaders. Together we will pray for peace and reaffirm our commitment to work for peace. Bangladesh is known for the harmony that has traditionally existed between followers of the various religions. This atmosphere of mutual respect, and a growing climate of interreligious dialogue, enables believers to express freely their deepest convictions about the meaning and purpose of life. In this way, they can contribute to promoting the spiritual values that are the sure basis for a just and peaceful society. In a world where religion is often – scandalously – misused to foment division, such a witness to its reconciling and unifying power is all the more necessary. This was seen in a particularly eloquent way in the common reaction of indignation that followed last year’s brutal terrorist attack here in Dhaka, and in the clear message sent by the nation’s religious authorities that the most holy name of God can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against our fellow human beings.
Bangladesh’s Catholics, though relatively few in number, nonetheless seek to play a constructive role in the development of the country, particularly through their schools, clinics and dispensaries. The Church appreciates the freedom to practice her faith and to pursue her charitable works, which benefit the entire nation, not least by providing young people, who represent the future of society, with a quality education and a training in sound ethical and human values. In her schools, the Church seeks to promote a culture of encounter that will enable students to take up their responsibilities in the life of society. Indeed, the vast majority of the students and many of the teachers in these schools are not Christians, but from other religious traditions. I am confident that, in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the national Constitution, the Catholic community will continue to enjoy the freedom to carry out these good works as an expression of its commitment to the common good.
Mr President, dear friends:?I thank you for your attention and I assure you of my prayers that in your lofty responsibilities, you will always be inspired by the high ideals of justice and service to your fellow citizens. Upon you, and upon all the people of Bangladesh, I willingly invoke the Almighty’s blessings of harmony and peace.

Welcome Address of the President of Republic of Bangladesh, Mr. Abdul Harmid
Your Holiness Pope Francis,
Your Eminence
Excellencies and High Commissioners,
Honourable Members of Parliament, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalamualikum, Shuvo Shondha and a very Good Evening to you all! It is indeed a great privilege and honour to have such an enlightened and revered personality in our midst.
With great excitement and deep respect, our people have been waiting to warmly welcome you and express heartfelt greetings! Today, in this historic hall, which witnessed many a historic events, are gathered many eminent personalities, including honourable members of the Cabinet and Parliament, Excellencies Ambassadors/High Commissioners and members of civil society, media and different religious leaders, other distinguished guests from all walks of life. It is a great honour and privilege for me to welcome your Holiness, on behalf of our people and on my own behalf, to Bangabhaban and to this beautiful country, a country where people fought against tyranny of oppression and deprivation, a country of religious harmony, peace and humanity even during difficult times.
Your Holiness,?Your visit to Bangladesh is recognition of the history of religious tolerance & harmony and age- old tradition of peaceful coexistence by people of different religions in Bangladesh. Our constitution imbues us with the spirit of freedom of religion, freedom of expression and the right to democracy. Our people hold dear to their heart the spirit of, “religion is personal, but its festivals are universal”. We live as Bangladeshis respecting each other’s faith and celebrating festivities together.
Catholic Archbishop of Dhaka, Cardinal Patrick D'Rozario,
Let me take this unique opportunity to express our heartfelt gratitude and sincere appreciation to Your Holiness, for conferring the rank of Cardinal on the Archbishop of Dhaka, His Eminence Patrick D’Rozario. Such conferment not only testifies to the devotion of His Eminence D’Rozario.
The relation between Bangladesh and the Vatican dates back to the seventies when His Holiness Pope Paul VI stopped over in Bangladesh to express solidarity and to share blessings of God with the people of Bangladesh devastated by a Hurricane. The opening of the Embassy of the Holy See in February of 1973 in Dhaka is the expression of support for our people and importance attached to relations with Bangladesh.
Your Holiness,?Bangladesh, under the able and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is tirelessly working for a poverty free, hunger free and exploitation free, secular and inclusive Bangladesh to realize the dream ‘Sonar Bangla’ or Golden Bengal as was envisaged by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation, who led us to freedom and self-determination. We have made remarkable progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and attained almost all the MDGs. We have also been working together with the global community and set ourselves to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to create a hunger free, just, peaceful and harmonious and knowledge based society leaving no one behind.
Your Holiness,?You also remind us that people are only truly free when they can practice their faith freely and without fear. In our land, we cherish religious liberty. We, therefore, stand with you in defense of religious freedom, knowing that people everywhere must be able to live with their faith, free from fear and intimidation.
You remind us that mercy is the most powerful message of Almighty God, who created us equal. That means welcoming the stranger with empathy and a truly open heart – be it the refugee who flees brutality of war torn lands, or the immigrant who leaves home in search of a better life or drive on situation like Climate Change.
Your Holiness,?as you are aware, our government gave shelter to one million Rohingyas who were forcefully displaced from their ancestral home in the Rakhine State of Myanmar. Thousands of them, including women and children, were brutally killed, thousands of women were violated. They saw their homes burnt into ashes. They had to take shelter in Bangladesh to escape the ruthless atrocities perpetrated by Myanmar army. Our people welcomed them with open arms, sharing food, shelter and other basic needs. They accepted the inconvenience of accommodating them in such a densely populated land. Now, it is our shared responsibility to ensure for them a safe, sustainable and dignified return to their own home and integration with the social, economic and political life of Myanmar. The very laudable position of Your Holiness has taken in favour of the distressed Rohingyas and your passionate voice against such brutality, give hope for resolution of the crisis. Your closeness to them, your call for helping them and to ensure their full rights gives moral responsibility to the international community to act with promptness and sincerity.
Your Holiness,?We know that no religion is immune from forms of individual delusion or ideological extremism. Our government is pursuing “Zero Tolerance” policy, including eradicate the root causes of terrorism & violent extremism. We denounce terrorism and violent extremism, in all its forms and manifestations. At the same time, like other Muslim majority countries, we remain concerned about the rise of Islamophobia and hate crimes in many western societies, which is adversely affecting lives of millions of peaceful people of faith. We believe that inter-faith dialogue, at all levels of the society, is important to combat such extremist trends.
Your Holiness,?You remind us that we have a sacred obligation to protect our planet, this magnificent gift, which our creator left to us and ensure a sustainable future for generations to come. We stand with you in your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to adverse effects of a changing climate and to come together to preserve our precious world.
Your call to “never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!” gives us the determination to not give up. Your visit renews our resolve towards building a peaceful, harmonious and prosperous world. For that great gift of hope, Your Holiness, we thank you, and welcome you once again to Bangladesh, with joy, honour and gratitude.
Please accept our deep respect and sincere thanks.
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