05/21/2018, 17.12
PAKISTAN
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Muslims and Christians welcome with joy Joseph Coutts as the new cardinal

by Kamran Chaudhry

The archbishop of Karachi will first wear his cardinal biretta during the consistory of 29 June. Pakistan has been without a cardinal since 1994. Mgr Coutts served in half of the country's dioceses. "He is a Ramadan gift for us,” says Muslim doctor.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Muslim politicians and activists have joined Pakistan’s Christian minority to welcome the country’s new cardinal, the archbishop of Karachi, Mgr Joseph Coutts.

In a surprise move in yesterday's Regina Caeli, Pope Francis announced that he was appointing 14 new cardinals, three of whom from Asia, during the consistory of 29 June.

The pontiff stressed that the places from which the new cardinals come from "express the universality of the Church, which continues to proclaim the merciful love of God to all men and women of the earth".

When they heard about the appointment, Pakistani Christians praised the Lord. Pakistan has been without a cardinal since the death in 1994 of its first prince of the Church, Mgr Joseph Cordeiro, who had served as archbishop of Karachi since 1958.

Fr Bonnie Mendes, former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, spoke to AsiaNews about the appointment.

"We are very excited,” he said. “It was long overdue. The Church of Pakistan was depressed after facing years of persecution. We were overlooked when Archbishop Patrick D'Rozario of Dhaka was appointed as a cardinal in 2016 along with three other Asians."

"Mgr Coutts is the right man,” he added, “and has been a leader for three decades. He talks in a sensible and calculated manner in both national and international forums."

Emmanuel Neno, executive secretary of the Pakistani bishops' Catechetical Commission is happy for the Christians of Pakistan.

“We are a religious minority in Pakistan but now our voice will be heard properly in the Universal Church. We thank the Holy Father for caring for the small churches,” he said. “Mgr Coutts has been bishop in half of the dioceses of the country. He knows his flock and their concerns.” 

Several Muslim politicians also joined the wave of congratulations. The first one was Khawaja Saad Rafique, Federal Minister of Railways.

“The appointment of Mr Joseph Coutts as a Cardinal is a matter of great pleasure for the Christian community of Pakistan. Mr Joseph Coutts is the pride of the Christian community and our beloved Pakistan. Congratulations to the Christian community,” he tweeted on Sunday.

For Dr Sadia Umer, coordinator at the women empowerment programme of the Catholic United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan, the news provides "a beautiful image" to the country.

“Everybody views our country with suspicion, blaming us for terrorism,” said the Muslim gynaecologist. “However, Pope Francis is different. He is genuinely sincere in inter-religious dialogue and see us all as humans. The new cardinal is a Ramadan gift for us”.

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