Bangladesh today rolled out the red carpet as Pope Francis, the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, arrived at Hazrat Shahjalal (R) International Airport in Dhaka this afternoon on a three-day state visit.
A 21-gun salute heralded the arrival of the 80-year-old Pope Francis when he alighted from a VVIP flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines in Dhaka, wrapping up his three-day Myanmar visit, at around at 3:00 p.m, local media reports said.
President Md. Abdul Hamid received the Pope near the VVIP Tarmac of the airport, while two tiny tots presented him a bouquet.
A smartly turned out contingent drawn from Bangladesh Army, Navy and Air Force gave a guard of honour and state salute to the highest catholic priest while accompanied by the president Pope Francis he took the salute from a makeshift "Saluting Dais" after inspecting the guard.
The national anthems of Bangladesh and Vatican City were played on the occasion. This was the second Bangladesh visit by a pope since 1986 visit by John Paul II.
Pope Francis arrived here at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Catholic Bishop's Conference of Bangladesh. Thereafter, President Hamid introduced cabinet members and other dignitaries to Pope Francis at the presentation line.
Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, and Law Minister Anisul Haque, were also present at the airport to welcome the Pope.
Besides, Cabinet Secretary M Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, the chiefs of three services, PM's senior secretary Suriya Begum Vatican City Ambassador to Bangladesh George Kocherry, Inspector General of Police M Sohidul Haque were, among others, present there. PM's Press Secretary and high civil and military officials were present.
From the airport, Pope is scheduled to visit National Martyr's Memorial at Savar to pay his rich tribute to the memories of the 1971 martyrs at in the afternoon and also Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman by placing wreaths at his portrait at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi - road 32.
In the evening, Pope will meet with President Hamid at Bangabhaban where he will join a meeting with Speaker, Chief Justice, ministers, politicians, civil society members and diplomats.
He will also sign a visitor's Book at the Credential Hall of Bangabhaban. An intensified security measures were taken centering the visit of the Catholic priest to Bangladesh.
On Friday (Dec 1), Pope Francis will join a mass prayer attended by the Catholics from Bangladesh Christian community, at Suhrawardy Udyan. In the afternoon, Pope Francis will visit the Vatican Embassy (Apostolic Nunciature) in Dhaka's Baridhara where the Pope will meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Later in the day, the Pope will hold a meeting with Bishops of Bangladesh, at the garden of Arch Bishop's house.
On Saturday (Dec 2), Pope Francis will visit Tejgaon Mother Theresa House. The Pope will meet priests, religious and consecrated men and women, seminarians and novices in the church of the Holy Rosary in Tejgaon.
The Pope will deliver a speech before the youths in Notre Dame College in the capital. The Pope is scheduled to leave Dhaka on Saturday (Dec 3).