MUMBAI, India – Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario led Catholics in Bangladesh in the celebrations of Bengali New Year, observed on April 14.
The day is called Pahela Baishakh on the Bengali calendar and is celebrated in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and other areas with people of Bengali heritage.
It falls on the same day as Vaisakhi, the Hindu new year.
D’Rozario is the Archbishop of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, and was created a cardinal by Pope Francis on November 19, 2016.
“It is the biggest festival of the Bangladeshi people. I celebrated Mass at the Holy Spirit Church, which was established around 1914,” D’Rozario said.
The parish is in a traditionally rural area, and the cardinal had to walk 20 minutes along a dirt road to make it to the church.
In his homily, he noted the economic, social, and cultural dimensions of the holiday.
“Jesus has taken the culture of the people and this is our culture, our culture is a Christian culture, and it is through culture – evangelization has taken place,” D’Rozario said.
Holy Spirit Church has seven Small Christian Communities [SCC’s], which share liturgies of the Word, catechesis, faith formation, and ministry training.
“It is through the SCC, that the evangelization of culture happens in society,” the cardinal told Crux. “This evangelized culture is then shared with people of other religions, and through this, societal issues, socio-economic developments, peace and dialogue initiatives progress.”
He said the “constant dynamics” of the interaction of the Christian culture with the wider culture is “our rhythm of life.”
There are only about 350,000 Catholics in Bangladesh, about 0.2 percent of the total population. The country is over 86 percent Muslim, while another 12 percent is Hindu.
“Through the SCC, with our Christian culture we live out the human and spiritual values in the midst of the realities of life and within the contexts of cultural identity and heritage, national unity and inter-religious relations, and harmony,” D’Rozario said.
He also noted that the Bengali New Year celebration was taking place during the Easter season, and both speak to the newness of life, “and this resonates with the Resurrection of Christ.”
“The Gospel has entered into the cultural life of the people. Faith has entered into the life of the people,” the cardinal said. “The Gospel is not foreign to our culture. Jesus entered into human history and into culture.”
Pope Francis visited Bangladesh from Nov. 30-Dec. 2, 2017, following his Nov. 27-30 visit to Myanmar.