In Bangladesh, the health emergency has not weakened the Marian fervor of Catholics: on October 30, 2020, 1,500 pilgrims did not hesitate to go to the district of Sherpur (in the north of the country) in order to honor Our Lady of Fatima.
The shrine, dedicated to the Virgin of the Rosary venerated at Cova-da-Iria, was erected in 1997. It is located in Baromari, in the diocese of Mymensingh, whose population is predominantly indigenous.
The Marian pilgrimage, one of the most popular in the country, was able to take place this year, but with strict sanitary instructions due to the Covid-19 epidemic which did not spare Bangladesh.
The number of pilgrims able to access the sanctuary therefore had to be reduced. Normally, the event is organized over two days, with the participation of around twenty-five thousand pilgrims from all over the country. This year, the pilgrimage was held for only half a day.
According to the rules imposed by the government, the event should have been limited to 600 worshipers, but at the request of the shrine, the authorities allowed this number to be increased. The pilgrimage included a Marian candlelight procession, times of prayer, and Mass.
Bangladesh, born from the partition of India in 1947, was initially part of Pakistan. But it declared itself independent in 1971. This country, located at the bottom of the Bay of Bengal in South Asia, shares a border with India and Burma. The population is 163 million, ninety percent Muslim.
The number of Catholics is estimated at around three hundred and fifty thousand: the Catholic Church has two archdioceses and six dioceses there, as well as numerous parishes.
One of the country’s prelates, Mgr. Gervas Rozario - bishop of the diocese of Rajshahi and vice-president of the Episcopal Conference – drew attention to himself on November 2. Referring to the controversy sparked within the Muslim world by the cartoons published in the satirical review Charlie Hebdo, he said: “We recognize that people have the right to freedom of expression, but it must not be devoid of values and ethics.… As Christians, we cannot support what the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has done.”
Unfortunately, the prelate added: “They have committed an unforgivable injustice by publishing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam.” In a country that is 90% Muslim, it is true that you have to be careful of what you say about Islam. But that is no reason to attribute the title of prophet to Muhammad who does not deserve it in any way.