09/28/2009, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Bishop of Rawalpindi: Pakistani Christians, "unity and light" in the midst of persecution

by Sarah John
Mgr. Rufin Anthony recalls the "missionary work" that has allowed the emergence of "local vocations." The prelate denounces feelings of "jealousy, prejudice and hatred" and confirms the continued growth of religious intolerance. He invites everyone to work “for unity and cooperation".
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - In a country torn by persecution of minorities, the "presence" of Christians must be "a symbol of unity and light." This was the message Mgr. Rufin Anthony, new bishop of Rawalpindi - the fourth largest city of Pakistan - during a mass celebrated in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, on 26 September in Faisalabad. Hundreds present among prelates, religious and lay people gathered in the cathedral to greet the bishop, a native of Faisalabad, who on 21 September took possession of the new diocese.  
 
 
"Bishop Rufin - recalled Msgr. Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad - is a son of [our] diocese and I am delighted to welcome him among us" the successors of the apostles. Bishop Coutts highlighted the role played by the diocese of Faisalabad in the "growth of the Christian community, many priests and nuns working in other areas of the country and abroad: two Dominican nuns are missionaries in Afghanistan."    
 
During the homily, Mgr. Rufin Anthony (pictured) paid tribute to the memory of Francis Benedict Cialeo, Italian missionary and bishop of Faisalabad, who together with “Capuchin and Dominican friars" worked so "vocations would be born locally" capable of "leading the diocese”. "The presence of missionaries has been a light for us - recalled Mgr. Rufin - Now we must move forward and work for unity and cooperation".
 
 
In recent weeks Pakistan has recorded several cases of persecution of religious minorities, especially Christians, committed in the name of the blasphemy law. "The situation is unbearable - underlined the new bishop of Rawalpindi - and the causes lie in feelings of jealousy, prejudice and hatred: these elements are present in other societies, but here [in Pakistan], they take on a confessional character”.  He confirms that "religious intolerance is growing" and is symptomatic of a "degradation of religion".
 
The prelate concluded by pointing out the "primary" role held by Christians in the "progress" of the country, urging the faithful to be "a symbol of unity and light even if persecuted", and assures his commitment to "bring people closer to the Church and to each other".  
Mgr. Rufin Anthony was born February 12, 1940 at Khushpur, a village in the diocese of Faisalabad, where the presence of Catholics is deep rooted; he studied theology in Rome and was ordained a priest June 29, 1969. Professor of theology and rector of the seminary in Karachi, he has worked in various parishes and has held the office of vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad for two terms.
 
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