Lahore (AsiaNews/Dt) – The three-day celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral ended with a special message from Pope Benedict XVI to the local congregation in Lahore. The Pakistan government also issued a postal ticket to celebrate the event.
The solemn mass celebrated by Archbishop Lawrence John Saldanha was attended by Pakistani and Indian bishops who were invited to pray for peace in the country and an end to terrorism.
In his homily Monsignor Saldanha stressed the “importance of democracy, freedom of speech and security for the minorities who live in Pakistan.”
Mgr Adolfo Tito Yllana, papal nuncio in Pakistan, stressed “the historic event of the founding of this church, a milestone for the Catholic community of this country,” adding that “with these stones a spiritual building, the Church of Christ, rose.”
The Vatican diplomat also thanked the Pakistani government for issuing the stamp, “which shows the importance of Catholics in the country.”
Pakistan Post has also issued a brochure that provides historical background information about the building, the brainchild of Capuchin Bishop Godfrey Pelckmans, who commissioned the construction to Belgian architect Dubbeleere.
Built in a Byzantine style, the cathedral allowed the architect to win the first Grand Prix de Rome. However, it was Bishops Fabian Eestermans who inaugurated the church on November 19, 1907.
The archdiocese of Lahore has 570,000 members in an area that counts 25 million people.
It covers 23,000 Km2 with 24 parishes and various Catholic institutions like schools and hospitals.
The diocese itself was founded in 1886 but its first bishop, Mgr Jacques Mouard, arrived only two years later.