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Vatican official finds a vibrant Church in Pakistan

November 05, 2013: A leading Vatican official has found a vibrant Catholic community in Pakistan that is also engaged in ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue and cooperation. Cardinal Fernando Filoni is back in the Vatican from a visit to Pakistan, during which he presided over the episcopal ordination of Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad on Friday, held meetings with the country’s bishops’ conference and also met the local Catholic community of Lahore. He told Vatican Radio that the Catholic Church of Pakistan is active in a difficult situation and needs the solidarity of the universal Church. This difficulty, he explained, stems from being a minority community in and overwhelmingly Muslim nation, but the Church is ‘extremely active’ in faith life, pastoral programmes as well as in the social and the education sectors. Through its bishops and priests Catholics are also in contact at the grassroots level with other religions, particularly, Islam.
On the ecumenical front there is also a good understanding with local Christian Churches to help better coexistence with Islam. However, the Vatican official admitted the Church of Pakistan is living in a precarious situation, which he described as an earthen vessel amidst iron vessels. He said the nation itself is going through a trauma of Islamic extremism, which psychologically and in terms of survival is hard on the Christian community of Pakistan. However they have no intention of migrating but to stay there and bear witness to their faith. Hence it is a Church that needs the solidarity, affection, and prayerful support of other Churches of the world in order not to feel alone.
The prelate noted that numerous Christians thanked him just for being and praying with them. They felt heartened and expressed their love for the Holy Father, who sent them his blessings. Cardinal Filoni said the Church’s social and educational services are highly regarded by authorities, especially in some 560 Catholic schools where majority Muslims study alongside Christians. There are also 130 charity centres, and the role of Caritas is highly regarded, especially during a recent earthquake in a region where there are no Christians.


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