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New leaders chosen for Caritas Asia

MANILA (UCAN): Caritas Asia, one of seven regional offices of the Caritas Internationalis, elected new leaders at  a meeting in Bangkok, Thailand on March 22. Benedict Alo D’Rozario of Caritas Bangladesh, was elected president while Father Edwin Gariguez of the Philippines, became a member of the organisation’s regional commission.
The commission acts as an advisory and executive body that works with the president in coordinating plans and activities in carrying out projects.
Father Gariguez was also appointed to the representative council of Caritas Internationals with Father Paul Choo of Korea.
The 62-year-old D’Rozario is the first Bangladeshi and first layperson to hold the post of Caritas Asia president. He will take the reins of Caritas Asia in June, taking over from Archbishop Tarcisius Isao Kikuchi of Tokyo, who has been president for eight years.
D’Rozario has worked in various capacities for Caritas Bangladesh for nearly 30 years. He retired in 2016 after serving as the executive director of the agency for 11 years. Since then, he has been involved as voluntary consultant with Caritas Asia and Caritas Internationalis. 
In 2016, he became the first Bangladeshi layperson to receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice or Cross of Honour, the highest award the pope can give to Catholics for services to the Church and society.
D’Rozario was secretary of the central committee that oversaw Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh in late 2017.  
“Caritas strives for services to everyone and formation of the heart. It provides secular services but follows the model of unconditional love and teaching of Jesus Christ, which is challenging in this increasingly secularized world,” D’Rozario said.
He said his plans for Caritas Asia include infusing a strong identity, social teaching and promoting the spirituality of the Church among Caritas leadership.
“Every Caritas member operates independently under the guidance of bishops’ conferences and it will continue. But better coordination is required given Caritas Asia covers a diverse continent and communication remains a barrier,” D’Rozario said.
“Among the priorities are safe migration, climate change adaption and anti-human trafficking efforts. Human and financial resource mobilization is important but a big challenge.”
Holy Cross Brother Harold Bijoy Rodrigues, secretary of Caritas Bangladesh’s governing body, welcomed D’Rozario’s new role.
“He has served Caritas and the Catholic Church with honesty, efficiency and dedication for years, so the new position is a recognition for his services. I hope as Caritas Asia president he will be able to contribute in growth and expansion of Caritas services drawing from his years of experience,” Brother Rodrigues said.
Yolly Esguerra, national coordinator of faith-based group Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc (PMPI), welcomed the election of Father Gariguez to the regional commission.
Esguerra said the priest “deserves the post given his strong advocacy for the environment and experience” as a key figure in the Church’s response to Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.
Father Gariguez, who is co-convenor of PMPI, “has accompanied us in our seemingly long and lonely fight to hold accountable big mining companies for their environmental destruction in many of our adopted communities,” Esguerra said.
The priest is also active in the organisation’s campaign to not only defend human rights but also the so-called “rights of nature.”
Father Gariguez was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2012 for his leadership of a grassroots movement against a nickel mine on the island of Mindoro in the Philippines.

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