A new Catholic bishop in Bangladesh vowed to prioritize “those who are deprived in many ways” in his pastoral work.
Bishop Shorot Francis Gomes, who was installed prelate of the Diocese of Sylhet on July 20, said he would try “to build a beautiful and peaceful diocese through inter-religious dialogue.”
He vowed to prioritize the “formation of small Christian society” and the “protection of rights and dignity of indigenous brothers and sisters.”
Bishop Gomes, who used to be auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Dhaka, was appointed by Pope Francis to be the bishop of Sylhet in May.
The diocese is one of Bangladesh’s most important spiritual and cultural centers, and is one of the most important cities of Bangladesh after Dhaka and Chittagong.
It has a population of about 13.5 million, most of whom are Bengali Muslims who constitute 87.2 percent. Hindus account for about 12.6 percent while Buddhists and Christians are less than 0.2 percent of the total population.
Sylhet was canonically erected as a Catholic diocese by Pope Benedict XVI on July 8, 2011. It consists of four civil districts with about 19,000 Catholics with a literacy rate of about 40.66 percent.
Bishop Gomes, 55, succeeded Bishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze, who was named archbishop of Dhaka in November.
The new prelate said his diocese is a “fertile ground for preaching the Good News” as he urged everyone to “preach the Good News so that we can take care of God’s people,” especially “those living in utter poverty.”
“Let us love them and heal their pain,” he said in his address following his installation at the Cathedral Church of Immaculate Conception in Lokhipur, Kulaura.
“It is our priority to look at those who are deprived in many ways today and unable to live with their dignity,” he said.
“We have to move forward to ensure their human dignity. At the same time, we should also help build a beautiful and peaceful country through inter-religious dialogue,” added the bishop.
About 300 faithful, Archbishop George Kocherry, apostolic nuncio to Bangladesh, attended the installation ceremony.
Physical attendance during the celebration was limited due to prevailing health restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Bishop Gomes is a wise, far-sighted leader, very humble, prayerful, hardworking, responsible, friendly, very compassionate towards the poor and needy,” said Archbishop D’Cruze in a message.
“I believe that the bishop will go through his pastoral service with deep faith in God,” he added.
Bishop Gomes was born on Dec. 15, 1965, in Hasnabad parish under the archdiocese of Dhaka.
He completed his primary and secondary studies from the Holy Cross High School in Bandura. He later entered the Little Flower Minor Seminary in Dhaka.
He started his philosophical and theological studies at the Holy Spirit Major Seminary in Banani, Dhaka, in 1984.
He was ordained priest on May 31, 1990, and later served as rector of the Little Flower Minor Seminary.
From 1998 to 2002, he pursued a doctoral degree in Moral Theology in Rome.
Back in Bangladesh, he served as parish priest of Nagari and Tejgaon for three years until 2005. He was vice rector of the Holy Spirit Major Seminary until he was named vicar general of Sylhet in 2012.
On Feb. 8, 2016, Pope Francis appointed Bishop Gomes as auxiliary bishop of Dhaka while serving as vicar general of the Diocese of Sylhet. – with a report from Radio Veritas Asia