Ordaining 16 new priests in Bangladesh, Pope Francis kept to his practice of using the formal ritual homily for the occasion. But, as often happens, he also felt a need to speak more personally to the people before him.
At the Mass on December 1 in Dhaka’s Suhrawardy Udyan park, Pope Francis’s impromptu remarks were not addressed to the candidates for priesthood, but to the estimated 100,000 people in the crowd.
Pope Francis called the Mass “a feast, this great celebration” for the ordination of priests. “I know that many of you came from afar, travelling for more than two days. Thank you for your generosity.”
“This shows the love you have for the church. This shows the love you have for Jesus Christ. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for your generosity. Thank you so much for your fidelity,” he told them. “Continue this way with the spirit of the Beatitudes.”
But he also had an admonition for the people: “Always pray for your priests, especially for those who today will receive the sacrament of holy orders.”
Every Catholic, he said, has a responsibility to support priests. “Some of you might ask me, ‘But, father, how do I support priests?’ Trust in your generosity. Your generous hearts will tell you how to support your priests. But the first support of priests is prayer.”
Of the 16 new priests, 10 were ordained for Bangladeshi dioceses; one is a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate; and five are members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
The Mass and ordinations were celebrated on a simple, thatch-roofed altar platform constructed of bamboo, a humble material meant to reflect the simplicity and poverty of the majority of Bangladesh’s people.
Thanking the pope at the end of the Mass, Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario of Dhaka, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, said the Mass in the park had great significance for the status of the Catholic faith in his country, where the vast majority of people are Muslim.
The park, he explained, is the place where Sheik Mujibur Rahman, known as the “father of the nation,” gave “his world-famous speech of March 7, 1971, calling for the independence of Bangladesh” from Pakistan.
Celebrating a Catholic Mass at the park for the first time, the cardinal said, makes “the ground more meaningful” as a sign of the nation’s multi-faith character and symbolizes “the special role of the church in this nation.”