World Dec. 2, 2017

Pope lands in Bangladesh, visits two national landmarks

By Hannah Brockhaus

Pope Francis at the the National Martyrs Memorial in Savar, Bangladesh. (L'Osservatore Romano)

DHAKA, Bangladesh (CNA)—After landing in Bangladesh Thursday afternoon, Pope Francis made visits to two of the country’s important landmarks – the National Martyrs Memorial in Savar and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum.

Arriving at the airport around 3 p.m. local time, Pope Francis was greeted by the President of the Republic of Bangladesh, Abdul Hamid. Two children in traditional dress then brought flowers and a jar of earth to the Pope, who blessed them.

Also present at the airport were political and civil authorities, 10 Bangladeshi bishops, a group of faithful, and 40 children, who performed traditional dances for Francis.

From there, he traveled to the National Martyrs Memorial in Savar, which is the national monument of Bangladesh. It stands in memory of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan.

At the memorial the Pope placed a wreath of flowers, and then signed the Book of Honour. He also planted a tree in the memorial’s adjoining Garden of Peace.

Afterward, Francis stopped at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dkaha City, which honours former Father of the Nation of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was assassinated, alongside most of his family, in August 1975.

“Father of the Nation” is an honorific title given to the person instrumental in obtaining a country's independence. The museum, created in 1994, preserves the former home of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the place he was killed.

Two of his daughters were away from the country at the time of his assassination, and thus spared. His oldest daughter is Sheikh Hasina, who has been prime minister of Bangladesh since January 2009.

Pope Francis was welcomed to the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum by some family members of the Father of the Nation. From there he traveled to the presidential palace for a private visit with Bangladesh’s president Abdul Hamid. Afterward he was to meet with authorities, civil society, and the diplomatic corps, then give a speech.

Pope Francis arrived in Bangladesh at midday Nov. 30. He came from the neighbouring country of Burma, also called Myanmar, where he spent three days in meetings with military and government officials and with religious leaders.

He will spend two and a half days in Bangladesh before returning to Rome late on the night of Dec. 2.

The population of Bangladesh, almost 156 million, is 90 per cent Muslim. There are just 375,000 Catholics, or 0.2 per cent. There are 12 Catholic bishops and 372 total priests, both religious and diocesan.