08/18/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN

For Pakistan priest, basic communities are a place to meet and value faith

Jibran Khan
Fr Benjamin Joseph was the first local priest in the Archdiocese of Lahore. He has worked in various parishes, centres and schools in Punjab. He insists on the importance of basic communities, hoping for greater cooperation between priests and catechists. In the past, he promoted pilgrimages to Marian shrines and youth summer camps.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - In their daily mission, priests must work to renew the communion among the faithful in Pakistan, said Fr Benjamin Joseph. They must also strengthen ties within basic communities, promote education as a privileged path for progress and improved living conditions as well as boost cooperation between themselves and catechists so as to improve the teaching of the Christian religion. Ordained on 8 January 1967, Fr Joseph is the first locally-born priest in the Archdiocese of Lahore. Over the years, he has served in various parishes, educational facilities and communities across Punjab.

Fr Benjamin (pictured, in the middle) is convinced of the importance of basic ecclesial communities, which must be able to help each other and contribute to the development of the faith and human person. For this purpose, he has urged educational institutions and the Education Board to listen to people and contribute to their development. At the same time, he would like to see catechists receive better training since they have to work closely with priests. Only this can lead to successful evangelisation.

During the many years of his mission, Fr Benjamin Joseph was able to see directly the country's changes and Christianity's impact on Pakistan where believers are but a tiny minority, often persecuted, compared to the Muslim majority.

The clergyman spent his first years as a priest in Kasur. Here, he experienced a sense of isolation vis-à-vis foreign missionaries, partly due to a language barrier. Later, this limitation proved to be an advantage because he came to act as a language mediator and got involved in legal issues with police and the courts.

Since the start, he has encouraged the participation of the laity in the life of the Church, which is crucial for the expansion of the faith.

Since he became a priest, he has taught, worked on the development of schools and other educational facilities, and organised youth summer camps (the first in 1976 in Punjab) in order to promote communion and unity.

During the month of May, which is dedicated to Our Lady, he has led pilgrims on several occasions to the Marian shrine of Mariamabad.

 

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