05/13/2016, 18.31
PAKISTAN
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Lahore funding the restoration of the tower of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart

by Kamran Chaudhry

Last November's earthquake damaged the church, its tower, and cross, which toppled. Until recently, engineers refused to work on the project because of its height. A local city official, a Muslim, helped secure US$ 30,000 in public funding.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - The Lahore District Government has provided more than US$ 30,000 to repair the tower of the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Last November's earthquake had damaged the building's 50-metre and plus tower. Until recently, engineers had refused to work at that height.

Lahore Archbishop Mgr Sebastian Shah yesterday came to view the work that started a couple of months ago. Masons have begun to remove the bricks that fell from the damaged parts.

Lahore's Cathedral of the Sacred Heart was built in 1907 by E. Dobbeleers, a Belgian architect from Antwerp. In 2007, the church celebrated its first centennial. For the occasion, Pope Benedict XVI sent a congratulatory message to the local congregation. For its part, the government issued a commemorative stamp.

In 2008, the cathedral, the Caritas Lahore building, the bishop's residence and the rectory were seriously damaged in a suicide bombing. The Federal Investigation Agency's office was the target, but the Church compound suffered collateral damages. In 2014, Church authorities replaced ten shattered windows.

Last year, the cathedral received an award for Belgian heritage abroad, despite the obvious cracks caused by the earthquake earlier taht hit northern Pakistan. The earthquake twisted the tower and brought down the cross from the top.

Despite the refusal by several engineers, the tower will regain its former glory due to Muhammad Ishtiaq. A Muslim, he is also a town planning officer who was concerned about the cathedral`s conditions. Rector Fr Joseph Shehzad thanked him and his family at a ceremony in his honour.

"It was my first Mass,” Ishtiaq told AsiaNews. “The cathedral is a national heritage. There are personal clashes between Christians and Muslims in Pakistan. The leaders of both religions should stop anyone who spread hatred between the two communities."

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