02/12/2013, 00.00
PAKISTAN - VATICAN
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For Pakistan, Benedict XVI was a bulwark of religious freedom and a source of guidance for the Church

Minister Paul Bhatti is saddened by the resignation, but admires his courage and sense of responsibility. He remembers the pope's emotion after his brother Shabbaz was killed. For the archbishop of Lahore, the pontiff is an example of "prayer and devotion". For the bishop of Islamabad, he will always be a "source of inspiration".

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The announcement of Benedict XVI's resignation caught many by surprise, not only among leaders in the Pakistani Church, but also in government as well as influential moderate Muslim circles. Many, especially in the Muslim world, ask themselves how a pope can resign, what are the procedures of succession, hopeful that the new pontiff would continue the work of interfaith dialogue promoted by Benedict XVI. At the same time, both Christians and Muslims praised the "act of courage and honesty" by someone who is deeply respected in the Asian nation as well as around the world.

Paul Bhatti, a Catholic and federal national harmony minister

Reports about the resignation surprised and saddened people. When I heard Benedict XVI's speech, I understood his profound courage, honesty and sense of responsibility.

All we have to do is recall his commitment to minorities in Pakistan and religious freedom in the world. At each incident of anti-Christian persecution, he always intervened with prayers and words of comfort.

I remember his emotion after the murder of my brother Shabbaz (a Minority Affairs minister killed by Muslim extremists in March 2011) whom he described him as a "martyr".

Pakistani media, cabinet colleagues and Muslim leaders were struck and saddened by his decision, but also intrigued by the law that allows him to resign. Many already want to know about the future pope. They hope he will be as attentive to the Muslim world and interfaith dialogue as Benedict XVI was.

Mgr Rufin Anthony, bishop of Islamabad/Rawalpindi

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has been for us an inspiration, a man of great courage. It was a great honour for me to serve the Church under the leadership of someone with such a deep vision of the world and of the faith. The pope has always shown himself to be a humble man, ever close to God. Even though Pope Benedict retires on 28 February, we shall continue to need his intercession as a source of grace and guidance to our mission.

Mgr Sebastian Shaw, archbishop of Lahore

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has been a symbol of unity and peace. His deep love for the Church and for the people of God has been remarkable. It has been an honour to have met such a charismatic personality. The pontiff led the Church into a new era of prayer and devotion. We respect and honour his decision. For our part, we plan to learn from his example, for what he did as pope and for what he will do in the future even after his retirement. (DS)

(Jibran Khan contributed to the article)

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