By Anneliese Esparza
Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, the former Archbishop of Dhaka, Bangladesh, came to the Diocese for a pastoral visit from Sept. 9 to Sept. 13.
On the same trip to the U.S., Cardinal D’Rozario also traveled to Boston, Dallas and Cleveland. Cardinal D’Rozario has visited the U.S. three times before, in 2012, 2016 and 2018.
During his stay in the Diocese, Cardinal D’Rozario visited the St. Junipero Serra House of Formation, met with Bengali immigrants living in the Diocese and joined with Bishop Rojas in celebrating a special Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Loma Linda.
Cardinal D’Rozario also sat down for an interview with the BYTE to discuss his visit, his perspective on the differences between the Church in the West and the Church in Bangladesh and more. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
BYTE: What made you decide to come to America?
Cardinal D’Rozario: My first reason of coming to the States is not any anything else than pastoral, because when Christians migrate to different countries from Bangladesh, I always feel that I should go and meet. Listen to them. And also feel that I am their bishop, that I am with them and they are also with the Church.
BYTE: How is it to minister in Bangladesh, where Christians are the minority?
Cardinal D’Rozario: We have a very small Christian minority: 600,000 Christians and 400,000 Catholics. But we have an organization, which I initiated 11 years ago, where we brought together all the religions ... for the last 11 years we have been working together, and without many rules or regulations, we have done well. There is a real harmony, peace and cooperation.
Interreligious dialogue is one of our strengths. This is because of the cultural harmony that we have. Cooperation, solidarity; this harmony is based not so much on the religious status, but on spirituality of communion. So that’s our strength. We have this trust, we have shared values, common values, and we work together to uplift the people.
BYTE: Could you describe the character of the Church in Bangladesh a bit more?
Cardinal D’Rozario: One thing is that, somehow, we are proud of our poverty. Poverty in the sense of evangelical poverty. People are poor, but they are happy; they’re dependent on God. They don’t lose their faith. They have the power of resilience, starting new all the time despite the natural and human-made calamities. People are God-fearing. And although Bangladesh is a secular country, our secularism does not mean denial of religion. Our secularism is assertion of all the religions.
BYTE: It sounds pretty different from the Church in the West.
Cardinal D’Rozario: Right. And this is because, you see, the religious dimension that we have innate in our lives cannot be denied, cannot be rejected. Then, all kinds of barriers come, all kinds of walls we build.
BYTE: Do you have any advice for the Church in the West?
Cardinal D’Rozario: Well, first of all I have to admit that church in every country is different. Although the Church is one, cultural context is different. But, I feel that Church personnel – the hierarchy, priests, religious – should be more close to people. That’s the beauty I see in the Church in Bangladesh. The bishops and priests are very close to the people. Therefore, 95 to 97 percent of our Christians practice, and our faith means something.
Also, the basis of the Church is families. Families are the domestic Church ... [holy families] will give the good base of the Catholic community. And it’s very difficult, but the challenge is there. For out of these families, there will also be vocations. Bangladesh is also harvesting the fruits of the good families in vocations to religious life and priesthood.
BYTE: What would your message be to the Bengali people in America, maybe to the ones who were not able to see you?
Cardinal D’Rozario: You know, I started coming to the U.S. in 2012. Previously, the Christians who migrated from Bangladesh, they stayed aloof. They did not mix too much with the local Church and they were gathered to themselves, only. But my advice to them was always, since you have come here, one thing you must realize is it’s not accidental. God had a plan. And you are not living your faith back in Bangladesh, you have come here with your faith, so live the faith. And more and more they’re being integrated in the local community. And that is a very good sign. I encourage that.
And another thing that I say: they have come from Bangladesh, and the needs are there, so what you can give to Church in Bangladesh, try to do that.
And a final thing that I would like to say [to Bengali immigrants]: you have a good family life, so we’d like to see vocations from you.
BYTE: Well, thank you, Your Eminence. Is there anything else you would like to add?
Cardinal D’Rozario: I’m grateful to Bishop Alberto Rojas and Vicar General Msgr. Gerard Lopez; I have had a very warm reception. And I should say, this [trip to the U.S.] is also one of the first times that the local bishops have been so hospitable in receiving me. So thanks to the Church here, and thanks for taking care of this [Bengali] migrant community also.