Pope Francis news: Pakistan allows blasphemy convict Asia Bibi to keep rosary from pontiff

Asia Bibi, a Christian who has been convicted of blasphemy in Pakistan, was reportedly jubilant after jail authorities had allowed her to keep a rosary sent to her by Pope Francis.

In a recent interview with the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Bibi said it was the first time that she had been allowed to keep a religious object since being imprisoned nine years ago.

A rare photo of Asia Bibi, sitting next to the then governor of Punjab Province Salman Taseer, who visited her in jail on November 20, 2010.Reuters/Asad Karim

The rosary was initially given by the Pope to Bibi's husband, Ashiq, and daughter, Eisham, during their meeting at the Vatican on Feb. 24. Francis reportedly told them to convey the message to Bibi that he is praying for her.

Bibi finally received the rosary when Ashiq and Eisham met with her last Monday, according to the Italian branch of ACN, which organized the family's meeting with Francis.

"I received the pope's gift with devotion and gratitude," Bibi told ACN, adding that the rosary gives her "great consolation" and that it was a comfort to know that the pontiff is praying for her.

"International awareness of my case is fundamental for me. It is thanks to this that I am still alive," she was quoted as saying.

Bibi's family was also present when Rome's Colosseum was lit up in red as a sign of solidarity with persecuted Christians across the globe.

During the event, Ashiq addressed those present, saying "This is just hate against Christians, who are considered impure." He further stressed that his wife was ensnared in a false blasphemy charge. Christians in Pakistan reported that Eisham broke down in tears when she addressed the gathering.

Bibi, who is currently on death row for blasphemy, is waiting for her appeal to be heard by the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Her case stems from an accusation made by a Muslim woman who complained about her when she drank from the same cup that was being used by Muslims.

In 2010, a court in district Nankana sentenced her to death, prompting her defense counsel to appeal to the Lahore High Court. However, the two-member bench upheld the sentence in 2014 and her appeal case is still pending with the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

The case was supposed to be heard by the Supreme Court in October 2016, but it was postponed after one of the judges, Justice Iqbal Hameed-ur-Rehman, withdrew from the case, saying he had been part of the bench case for Salman Taseer's murder.

Taseer, who served as the governor of Punjab province, was killed by his own bodyguard in 2011 after he sought a presidential pardon for Bibi.