'Pakistan's Christians are champions of mercy'
"We give thanks for the prayers and help of so many who have reminded us that we in Pakistan are not alone."
With 450,000 Catholics, the Archdiocese of Lahore,
Pakistan is the largest See in the country. It is headed by a Franciscan Friar,
Archbishop Francis Shaw of Lahore. That city was the site of suicide bomber’s
attack last Easter that killed 78 and wounded more than 300 people—the majority
of them Christians. The archbishop recently spoke with international Catholic
charity Aid to the Church in Need.
By Josué Villalón
What is the present
situation in Lahore
It appears to
be a little better. Security at our religious celebrations has been improved People
are cheerful and motivated. But at the same time people were a little
frightened because, as happened last Easter, we know that we could well be
attacked during the Christmas season.
What is the importance of the Christians of Pakistan
for the Church and for the rest of the world?
We are a very
tiny minority—just 2 percent out of 190 million people—yet our Church is very
much alive. Most Christians are very poor, but we are very rich in faith. The
faithful are really interested in the Word of God and there are very committed lay
catechists, who are helping young people and married couples to live their
faith with fervor.
The Year of
Mercy was a very special time. The Christians of Pakistan are champions of
mercy. One day, after Mass, a couple told me that my homily on mercy and pardon
had helped them greatly; they had lost a son in the attack in the Gulsan Iqbal
Park on Easter Sunday 2016—but they had forgiven the suicide bomber
What is your assessment of the year 2016 which is now
coming to an end?
attack was a tragedy, but the people are getting back on their feet. The Year
of Mercy has been a great blessing for the whole Church and especially for the
Church in Pakistan. We celebrated many encounters of dialogue between the
religions. We give thanks to the Pope for this Year of Mercy, and for the
prayers and help of so many who have reminded us that we in Pakistan are not
How are the relations with faiths?
dialogue is very important, especially with Islam. I’m very proud of the good
relations we have with the leaders of other religions. We celebrate each
other’s major feasts. But in order for there to be genuine dialogue it is
important that our young people are well instructed in the Word of God. It is
also important that there is unity among Christians. It is important to teach
the Bible to the young people—not so that they know it by heart, but that they put
its teachings into practice through love of neighbor.
What are the principal needs of the Church in
Education is very
important to us. We especially want to make it possible for young Christians to
go to college, which is difficult, because it’s expensive and many of our
families are very poor. We also need to rebuild and repair churches and mission
stations. We need to renovate our seminary. We have many vocations!
Pakistani Catholic children; ACN photo