DHAKA Among the tens of thousands of Catholics who congregated in a park in the Bangladeshi capital Friday to attend the mass held by Pope Francis, few could hide their pride at a visit that, albeit briefly, has placed their tiny, minority community at the center of attention in the fourth largest Muslim country in the world.
I just wish that the Pope passes by here so that I can shake his hand, hug him and that he blesses me, a visibly emotional student Alfred Mazumder, 26, told EFE.
Ahead of the start of the mass, pilgrims sat on tarpaulins in the park, using program notes to shield themselves from the blazing morning sun.
Among the crowd were seminarians, who were proud to witness the ordination of their fellow deacons but also could not hide their disappointment at not being among those chosen to receive blessings of the Holy Father, as Rony Clinton Biswas, pointed out to EFE.
Bishwajit Burman, one of the altar boys, expressed happiness at being able to be of assistance to the Supreme Pontiff during the mass.
We have been practicing for the last three months (...) but I feel prepared and confident, says Burman.
The church in Bangladesh has eight dioceses, 100 parishes, 35 religious congregations, one cardinal (appointed by Pope Francis last year), nine bishops and archbishops and from Friday, 407 priests, 143 of them foreigners.
These priests, however, avoid openly propagating their religion because although they are protected by the Constitution, which protects freedom of religion, they are cautious about not upsetting the Muslim majority with open acts of proselytism.
The three-day visit of Pope Francis to Bangladesh, which began Thursday, allows the Catholic minority the freedom to express themselves openly, even if only for a few days.
His visit gives us respect, so we feel proud, said a smiling Sister Jui.