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AsiaNews/UCAN – The parish of the Holy Rosary, the largest in the Dhaka archdiocese, will not hold midnight Masses to herald Christmas and the New Year because of terrorist threats. The parish priest, Fr A. Jyoti Gomes, announced on 4 December that all services would be held earlier in the evening of Christmas Eve and 1 January, Solemnity of Mary.

The church is located in Tejgaon in the centre of the capital of Bangladesh . Fr Gomes warned parishioners not to come inside the place of worship with bags and to be wary of strangers roaming in the church premises.

Asked why he had issued the notices, the parish priest did not supply any further details. “What I announced in Sunday Mass on 4 December, that’s all I will say,” he responded. “I do not want to say anything beyond that.” Some parishioners said Fr Gomes received a phone call from someone who threatened to bomb the church during the Christmas services.

Nirmal Rozario, general secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, said the priest had been warned to cancel activities scheduled for December however he added, “I don’t know who threatened him”. “It is not only we who are vulnerable,” he continued. “Our whole country is vulnerable. Common people are vulnerable during this present crisis.”

Now, security guards are using metal detectors to inspect each person who wants to enter the parish premises. The stepped-up security checks were introduced because of increased violence countrywide.

On 22 August, the Bengali-language daily Ittefaq, published a report drawn up by the public security services which points to three non-Muslim targets of terrorist attacks: other than the Holy Rosary Church , there were the Dhakeshwari National Hindu Temple and the Buddhist monastery of Kamalapur in Dhaka . Fr Gomes said public security had posted men to protect the church after the article appeared.

The Holy Rosary Church was originally built in 1677 however construction on a new church began in 1991. The new church is the largest in the country, with a seating capacity of 2,000. The parish has grown with the church: from 1,300 Catholics in 1972, there are now nearly 11,000.