Dominicans in Pakistan
Lahore (Agenzia Fides) - "The legacy of Saint Thomas Aquinas is alive and present in Pakistan. Thomas is alive and present with his thought, with his search for the truth which is Christ himself. He is present among young people who study in seminaries and schools. He is present in our testimony of life. The Angelic Doctor teaches us to always seek Christ Jesus in our daily life as faithful Christians in Pakistan": says Father Akhtar Naveed OP, 54 years old, Dominican friar since 1984, who in Lahore is master of novices and takes care of the formation of young people who approach the Order of Preachers. The Dominican friar reports that there will be various programs, activities and conferences dedicated to the saint in the three-year anniversary period regarding his figure: in 2023, for the seventh centenary of his canonization (which took place in 1323); in 2024, for the 750th anniversary of his death; and in 2025, for the eighth centenary of his birth. "The holy author of the Summa Theologiae - notes Father Naveed - is an essential point of reference in the studies of philosophers and theologians, and continues to fascinate many young people, not only intellectually, but for his deep and sincere search for truth which makes us free. It is with this conviction that, as Dominicans and confreres, we pursue activities like that of the Peace Center of Lahore, certain of the path of dialogue which, in our context, means including, meeting and seeking harmony with people of other religions, particularly the Islamic faith". There are several institutes in Pakistan that bear the name of Aquinas: a high school in Karachi, one in Islamabad, a college in the diocese of Faisalabad. The Dominicans of Pakistan intend to celebrate the anniversaries dedicated to Saint Thomas starting with the young, following a path of "study and contemplation, allowing intelligence and love to converge, as Thomas did", he explains. "From Saint Thomas, we want to learn to let our hearts be filled by the Holy Spirit, combining faith, which makes the heart burn, with reason, which enlightens the intellect, with the certainty that its contribution is a precious asset for the Church in Pakistan and for the universal Church", notes the Dominican from Lahore. The programs organized will be liturgical celebrations and meetings to study and deepen the work of the saint who is the patron of theologians, academics, booksellers and students, "in order to cherish him and respond to the challenges we experience in Pakistan, always with the aim of building the community of believers and being open to welcoming the truth". The 700th anniversary of the canonization (July 18, 1323) of Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) falls in 2023. This anniversary is felt by the Dominican family, of which the theologian was a member, later proclaimed Doctor of the Church in 1567. In 2024, there will be the 750th anniversary of his death (1274-2024), which occurred on March 7. On the occasion of these events, the Master of the Order of Preachers and 88th successor of Saint Dominic, the Filipino Gerard Francisco Timoner III – the first Asian to lead the preaching friars – sent a letter to the members of the Dominican Family all over the world to invite to celebrate the "double jubilee" on the life of Saint Thomas. The text also recalls the Apostolic Letter "Lumen Ecclesiae" written by Paul VI in 1974 in honor of Aquinas, designed to commemorate the 700th anniversary of his death, which constitutes a guideline for Dominicans in Pakistan, especially when she asserts that "the Angelic Doctor conceived the relationship between the entire created order and the order of religious truths, and in particular of the Christian message, not in terms of opposition, but of ordered harmony."
The first Dominican arrived in the Indian subcontinent in 1291, just 70 years after the death of Saint Dominic. In the 17th century, the Dominican Congregation of India, based in the Portuguese colony of Goa, had around 350 brothers, but it died out in the 19th century. The 20th century saw a revival of the Dominican presence in India and what is now Pakistan, and the missionary presence was very important to the growth of the Pakistani Church. In 1931, Italian Dominicans from the Roman Province, led by Father Benedict Francis Cialeo OP, arrived in the diocese of Lahore. In 1939, the Diocese of Multan was established and Father Cialeo became its first bishop. In 1956, American Dominicans from the Province of Saint Joseph began working as missionaries with Italian Dominicans in the Diocese of Multan. In 1960, the territory was divided between the dioceses of Multan and Faisalabad. Bishop Cialeo was transferred to Faisalabad and the Dominican American Father Louis Scheerer became the bishop of the diocese of Multan. In 1966, the first group of young men from Pakistan entered the Order of Preachers and the first
formation houses were founded. In 1973, the first Pakistani Dominicans were ordained priests. In 1982, the “Vice-Province of Ibn-e-Mariam” of the Dominicans of Pakistan was established. Today, they provide pastoral service in four dioceses: the archdioceses of Karachi and Lahore and the dioceses of Multan and Faisalabad, with a community which has a total of around thirty Dominican priests, many young people in training and groups of lay people, enriched by the presence of orders of Dominican sisters. Dominican religious serve in parishes, schools and hospitals, but also in the field of interreligious dialogue, with relevant initiatives such as the "Peace Center" in Lahore, which promotes dialogue and harmony between people of different confessions. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 21/9/2023)