St. Anthony is a saint of great importance to the people of Bangladesh.
Pope Francis is currently visiting Bangladesh, where he will remain until Saturday, December 2. His arrival comes just nine months after Bangladesh hosted a weeklong tour of the relics of St. Anthony of Padua in February 2017.
Traveling by boat down the Ganges River, and via rickshaw on the dusty roads of South Asia, the saint’s relics visited the cities of Dhaka, Chittagong, Barisal, Mymensingh, and Rajshahi, and were welcomed by bishops, priests and the faithful at each stop.
On February 2 and 3 the Shrine of St. Anthony at Panjora saw crowds in excess of 70,000 — people who came to venerate the artifacts and attend a Mass led by Cardinal Patrick D’Rozario, archbishop of Dhaka. This Shrine of St. Anthony is one of the oldest churches dedicated to the patron saint of lost things, built in the 16th century by the Portuguese.
Cardinal D’Rozario is the man responsible for the relics visiting Bangladesh. He traveled to the Franciscan Basilica of Padua, Italy, where the body of the saint rests. After testifying to the community of brothers about Bangladesh’s strong devotion to St. Anthony, the arrangements were made for the extraordinary tour of the relics.
St. Anthony is popular in Bangladesh due to the influence of the Portuguese traders, who — in the 16th century — were the first Europeans to visit the region. They settled in the city of Chittagong, where they traded spices and built a military presence. However, after a defeat against the Mughal Empire in the 17th century, the Portuguese lost control of the city and their population was absorbed into the culture of the region.
Today, as Cardinal D’Rozario told the Franciscans of Padua, the saint is of great importance to Bangladeshi Christians of all faiths.