The following is an excerpt from the pope’s address yesterday to Bangladesh’s bishops. Seven bishops lead the 300,000 Catholics of Bangladesh.
The Church is Catholic: a community embracing peoples of all races and languages, and not limited to any one culture or particular social, economic or political system. She is at the service of the entire human family, freely sharing her gifts for the well-being of all. This gives her a connatural ability to foster unity and peace. My dear brothers, you and your people, as promoters of harmony and peace, have much to offer the nation. In your love for your country you inspire tolerance, moderation and understanding. By encouraging people who share important values to cooperate for the common good, you help to consolidate your country’s stability and to maintain it for the future. These efforts, however subtle, give effective support to the majority of your fellow citizens who uphold the country’s noble tradition of mutual respect, tolerance and social harmony. May you likewise continue to sustain and counsel Catholic lay people and all who wish to offer their service for the good of society in public office, social communications, in education, healthcare and social assistance. May they always rejoice in the knowledge that Christ accepts as a gesture of personal love whatever good is done to the least of his brothers.
I am aware of recent initiatives you have taken in the field of interreligious dialogue, and I exhort you to persevere with patient dedication to this essential component of the Church’s mission ad gentes. Indeed, much good can be accomplished when it is conducted in a spirit of mutual understanding and collaboration in truth and freedom. All men and women have an obligation to seek the truth. When it is found, they are compelled to model their entire lives in accordance with its demands. Consequently, the most important contribution we can bring to interreligious dialogue is our knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth, “the way, the truth and the life”. Dialogue, based on mutual respect and truth, cannot fail to have a positive influence on the social climate of your country. The delicacy of this task requires thorough preparation of clergy and lay people, first of all by offering them a deeper knowledge of their own faith and then by helping them to grow in their understanding of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the other religions present in your region.