Mgr Andrew Francis celebrated 45 years of priesthood. He praised Christians who struggle for their faith. In 1996, he survived an assassination attempt, whilst in 2013, a car accident left him disabled. But for him, “there is no downside in my life."
Lahore (AsiaNews) – Mgr Andrew Francis, bishop emeritus of Multan (Pakistan), survived a car accident three years ago that confined him to a wheelchair, yet “The paralysis to the legs has not had a big impact on me,” he said at a ceremony marking his 45 years in the priesthood.
“I love the gift of the priesthood that God gave me and his people. There is no downside in my life,” said the prelate who also escaped an assassination attempt in the 1990s.
Still, "There is great need of educating people to respect other faiths,” he explained. “Pakistan’s brave Christians face many challenges by the mere fact of believing in the Son of God. They deserve our admiration because they are fighting for their faith."
The ceremony celebrating his ordination took place in Lahore last Thursday (12 January). The celebration began with the recitation of the Rosary, followed by a liturgy.
Mgr Francis, 70, is the fifth bishop of Multan. In 2014 he retired. The previous year, he was paralysed, but his disability has not prevented him from working in the diocese.
He was a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the US International Commission for English in the Liturgy and the Minorities Commission of the Pakistani government.
He has held various positions in his country where he founded the minor seminary of St Joseph and built eight schools in Punjab province.
During his long priesthood, he introduced some innovations to the Church of Pakistan, such as pilgrimages on foot and bicycle to the national Marian Shrine at Mariamabad, the novena to Saint Anthony, prayer sessions to invoke healing, a public procession on the Solemnity of Christ the King, and women catechists.
In 1996 two men tried to kill him inside Lahore’s St Anthony Church. As he tried to disarm one of the assailants, he was hit in the face with the butt of the gun.
When he talks about the incident, he has no animus towards his attackers. Indeed, “Despite the difficult situation, I respect Islam,” he said.
“Many Muslim landowners helped me during the terrible flood of 2010, when one-fifth of Pakistan was under water. They donated wheat, rice, and money.”
“With joint efforts from both sides we were able to reach and help out many people, regardless of faith."
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