The Sheikh “knew that it is only in such a pluralistic and inclusive society, in which every person could live in freedom, peace and security, that a more just and fraternal world can be built,” the pope said.
Francis said that Bangladesh, “Golden Bengal,” has a unique natural beauty and is a modern nation striving to join unity of language and culture with respect for different traditions and communities.
“Bangladesh is a young state, and it has always had a special place in the heart of the popes, who from the start have expressed solidarity with its people, sought to accompany them in overcoming initial adversities, and supported them in the demanding task of nation building and development,” he said.
He expressed hope that relations between the Holy See and Bangladesh would continue to flourish and that the country would grow in interreligious encounters and dialogue, as he witnessed during his visit in 2017.
Bangladesh, the world’s eighth-most populous country, is a constitutionally secular state guaranteeing freedom of religion, while Islam is the state religion. Just over 90% of the population is Muslim, and 8.5% is Hindu, according to 2011 statistics. Buddhists and Christians are small minorities.
The total population of the country is 163 million, and according to Vatican data from 2015, Catholics number around 375,000.