Pakistan needs harmony
The man appointed to be Archbishop of Pakistan's largest diocese has said he wishes to dedicate his ministry to the cause of justice and peace – which he says are desperately needed in his country.
Calling on people to pray that he has "courage and faith" as he takes up his post, Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore said there was an urgent need to "conscientise" people about harmony and civil rights.
Speaking from Lahore in an interview with Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Shaw, a Franciscan, said interfaith cooperation, ecumenical dialogue and outreach via television and other communications were key to the development of social harmony.
He said these themes would be reflected in the ceremony of his installation on Friday at a packed ceremony at Lahore's Sacred Heart Cathedral, led by Archbishop Edgar Pena Parra, Apostolic Nuncio to Pakistan, and attended by all the country's bishops.
Archbishop Shaw, who has been the diocese's Apostolic Administrator since Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha stepped down in 2011, said: "There is not much peace in Pakistan.
"Therefore we need all the more to conscientise people, so that people feel the need for peace. They will see that peace comes when people have justice.
"What we need is to learn to respect one another – to realise that we are all Pakistanis, whether we are Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or Hindus."
The Archbishop, whose diocese has as many as 600,000 faithful – approaching half the total number of Catholics in the country – said he was committed to stepping up meetings with other faith leaders, as well as training programmes for teachers, catechists, parents and women so that they are more aware of their rights and responsibilities.
The archbishop said: "There is an urgent need for greater equality and social justice and for peace.
"The Church should be a visible sign of our commitment to this and we can only move forward by lives of service."
In a reference to the ongoing persecution and discrimination suffered by Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan, notably Ahmadiyyas and Shiite Muslims, Archbishop Shaw appealed for prayer, saying: "Please pray that I may have courage and faith."
The Archbishop spoke about plans for 'Catholic TV Lahore', a cable channel initiative he hopes will 'go live' about the time of his installation, with programmes broadcast 12 or more hours a day.
The programme schedule includes catechesis, marriage counselling, guidance on good parenting, women's rights, the Sacraments and the rosary. The Archbishop himself hopes to have a regular slot on the channel.
Support for persecuted and other suffering Christians in Pakistan is a priority for Aid to the Church in Need which helps with Christian education (catechesis) for young people, Mass stipends for priests, training for seminarians, Child's Bibles and other Catholic education materials, Catholic media projects (radio and newspapers) and new churches.