Faisalabad celebrating 50 years of priesthood of Fr Bonnie Mendes
by Shafique Khokhar
Active in the field of human rights and interreligious dialogue, he is an example for all Catholics in Pakistan. He defines his mission "received as a precious gift from God." Over a thousand people at a Mass of thanksgiving. Bishop Coutts: how John the Baptist prepared the way for others.
Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - "Serving as a priest of the diocese of Faisalabad was given a precious gift from God." This is how Bonnie Mendes, priest and activist in Pakistan, celebrated 50 years of priesthood on 7 January in the city's cathedral, a church crowded with a thousand people, including priests, nuns, catechists, students, laymen and members of civil society . "The mission of my life - he added - is to work as much as possible for the redemption of the underprivileged and marginalized groups including women, children, low-paid workers and religious minorities." Catholics in Faisalabad (Punjab) welcomed him with flowers, throwing rose petals, songs of celebration and drum rolls. The local bishop, Mgr. Joseph Coutts, and activists Ayub Sadiq and Peter Jacob, executive secretary of the National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) have praised the efforts of the priest in promoting interfaith dialogue, peace and human rights.
For the occasion, the organizers have shown a multimedia movie that retraced the life and mission of Fr Bonnie Mendes, in addition to his contribution to the faith and social fields. He was ordained priest on 7 January 1962 and obtained his doctorate on development in the Philippines. In 2005 he received a prestigious award for his contribution to peace and interfaith harmony and, even today, is regional coordinator of Caritas Asia and Executive Director of the Society for Human Development, an organization active in Pakistan since 1984.
Speaking of the work of Fr Mendes, the Bishop of Faisalabad Msgr. Coutts said that "he is like light, salt and yeast," and his every action in life is "in the light of the teachings of the Bible." Like John the Baptist, the prelate added, he has prepared the way for others in the service of humanity "small steps to promote human development." Fr. Emmanuel Yousaf Mani, NCJP national director, says that "following his example," the Catholic Church "can bring a positive change" to Pakistani society.
Fr. Khalid Rasheed, vicar general of the diocese of Faisalabad, included Fr. Mendes among those priests who "spread the faith like Aaron" and " lead the nation socially and politically like Moses." Fr. Aftab James Paul adds that "He in not only a religious and social leader, but a progressive reformer and visionary intellectual." Finally activist Sardar Sadaqat, for which Bonnie Mendes is not just a single individual, but also "an institution and statesman as well."