Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "In Pakistan, Christianity arrived about 150 years thanks to European and American missionaries, Franciscans, Dominicans and other religious orders. The missionaries did so much for us, they built churches and schools, baptized, administered the sacraments, and started many pastoral, social, and charitable activities. They all have our gratitude. Now it is up to us. This is what the extraordinary missionary Month proclaimed by Pope Francis tells us. It is our responsibility to bring the Gospel to Pakistan today", said Fr. Jahanzeb Iqbal, rector and pastor of the Cathedral of Lahore to Agenzia Fides, commenting on the letter Pope Francis released yesterday and in order to celebrate the centenary of Benedict XV’s Encyclical Maximum Illud (1919), officially announces an "Extraordinary Missionary Month" in October 2019.
"Everything we are today - explains Fr. Iqbal - we owe it to the missionaries. Especially thanks to them we received the inestimable gift of faith. We have a heart full of gratitude: they left their countries and gave their lives for us. As a boy I saw many missionaries in our churches, today there are not as many: this means that the Pakistani Church has taken its steps to be autonomous and is growing, by the grace of God. It is our time. The Lord calls us, as Pope Francis says, to be genuine disciples and missionaries: Pakistan needs the proclamation of the Gospel and this is now our task. With this spirit we will prepare and live the extraordinary Missionary Month. Perhaps sometimes we are a little lazy, therefore it is useful to remember the example and the ardor of the first missionaries who went to the Indian subcontinent before the very nation of Pakistan was born, which they began among so many difficulties, always trusting in the power of the Holy Spirit".
Among the challenges that the Pakistani Church lives today, the pastor noted "a sort of jealousy at an intra-ecclesiastical level that sometimes is perceived through our works and in our communities, which is certainly not good for pastoral work: we need to improve this aspect in our Churches". Moreover, he notes, "our churches are often in difficulty because of lack of funds and resources to continue all the apostolic activities we would like to do. Our Christian families are very poor, and their collections are not enough to support the community. We still need donors from the outside".
Another urgent question is, according to Fr. Iqbal, "the presence in the mass media: in this, as a Catholic community, we suffer from the great commitment of the Protestant Christian networks that, with their televisions, reach many believers, and sometimes create negative publicity regarding Catholics".
One cannot ignore the very essence of the Pakistani Church, which is "a small minority in an Islamic environment: sometimes our faithful are afraid of Muslims, they live some form of discrimination, are afraid of abuses and violence: therefore life it is not easy for them, as it may be enough to say a few words to be accused, imprisoned, even killed. But this is our reality and our life, we live with it serenely and with great faith, trusting in God who is the strength that keeps us going every day", concludes the Rector of the Cathedral of Lahore. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 23/10/2017)