Vatican nuncio visits Demopolis

Published 10:50 pm Monday, December 8, 2008

St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Demopolis played host to a high-ranking official, as Archbishop Joseph Marino visited for the Mass of the Immaculate Conception there on Monday.

A native of Birmingham, Marino serves as the Vatican nuncio to Bangladesh, which is similar to the Vatican ambassador to that country.

“I was appointed Jan. 12, 2008,” Marino said. “I was ordained as an archbishop on March 29 of this year (at Birmingham’s St. Paul Cathedral), and I arrived in Bangladesh on May 3.

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“My primary duty is to be the liaison between the local Catholic church and the Vatican, and to represent the Vatican to that government as well.”

Marino has visited all six dioceses in Bangladesh, having met with each bishop there.

“It gives me a chance to understand the Catholic communities in the different parts of the country,” he said. “Bangladesh has 150 million people, but there are 312,000 Catholics. The rest are Muslim.

“But, I must say, there are very good relations between the communities: the Muslims, the Christians and the Hindus. So, in that regard, Bangladesh is a good example of how harmony should exist between peoples of different religions. So, the Christians are very free to worship, to build churches, to educate their children in their faith.

“Part of this harmony — this real ‘gift,’ that I call it — is that many of the leaders of that country have been educated in the fine Catholic schools that we have there,” he said. “The first was built in 1853 by the Holy Cross fathers. So, from childhood, you have Christians, Muslims and Hindus going to the same school, learning how to live together and be one with each other and respect each other. They respect each others’ religion, so it’s a very good situation right now in Bangladesh. I feel fortunate.”

Marino said that some of the challenges facing Bangladesh are social and economical. He said that it is difficult to find resources to help the church help people.

“There are many needs, because Bangladesh is a very poor country,” he said. “The church is very active for providing those in need. The church operates many orphanages, clinics, boarding schools for boys and girls from the villages so they can have a good environment for study. But, in terms of the relationship between the government and the church, there are no serious issues that need to be resolved.”

Marino was ordained as a bishop at the Diocese of Birmingham in 1979, and was at the Cathedral of St. Paul for four years. In 1984, he returned to Rome, invited to be a part of the diplomatic service of the Vatican, so he returned to school for four more years.

In 1988, his first assignment was in the Philippines, then in 1991, he was appointed to Uruguay. In 1994, he was appointed to Nigeria, and in 1997, he worked in the Vatican until 2004. From 2004 to 2008, he worked in London, returning to the States to be ordained as an archbishop, then being assigned to Bangladesh. His work has taken him to five of the six populated continents.

“Just to discover different cultures and human realities,” Marino said of what he enjoys about his work, “and really, to discover the basic goodness of so many people around you. People are truly trying to live in what they believe is a good way, a wholesome way. To enter into a relation with those kinds of people and encourage that, so there can be more peace and harmony.”