Bishop Joseph Arshad is the new president of the Bishops' Conference
by Kamran Chaudhry

The most urgent goal is the training of catechists, who are the vanguard of the mission of evangelisation. The Bishops’ Conference declares the ‘Year of the Eucharist’ for spiritual growth and inner renewal to serve and pray for Pakistan.

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Bishop Joseph Arshad, 53, 14 of which spent in the diplomatic service of the Holy See, is the new president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Pakistan.

The decision was made during the second annual plenary meeting of the bishops on 9-10 November at the Renewal Centre in Lahore. He replaces Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts, 72. Mgr Benny Mario Travas, bishop of Multan, was elected vice president.

The bishops also declared ‘The Year of the Eucharist’ in Pakistan, which will run from 26 November 2017 to 25 November 2018, the day of the solemnity of Christ the King.

“The ‘Year of the Eucharist’ is meant to be a time of spiritual growth and inner renewal,” the Bishops’ Conference said in a press release issued last week. It will also be a time “to share the love of Christ with all humanity by our dedicated service to our country.”

“As our country is going through difficult times we urge all people in Pakistan to pray more fervently for peace, harmony, progress and prosperity of our beloved country,” the statement said.

For Mgr Arshad, one of the main tasks is to improve the training of priests and catechists. The latter are the main agents of evangelisation. in fact, the lack of qualified individuals to lead the Church's mission is one of the major problems in evangelisation.

"Catechists are the vanguards of the mission of evangelisation; priests come later," Mgr Arshad told AsiaNews.

“The network of our catechists should be stronger,” he explained. “We are now using a modern syllabus to train them at the National Catechist Training Centre in Khushpur village, Punjab province. We are also focusing on better training candidates in the seminaries. Even ordinary youth have little awareness about their own catechism.”

“Our community has little resources and only education can change the situation,” the prelate added. “Besides their spiritual preparation, we have adopted a national education policy which is being implemented in all six dioceses and in Quetta, the apostolic vicariate.”

In addition to his new responsibilities, Archbishop Arshad also chairs the Commission for Social Communications as well as the National Justice and Peace Commission of the Bishops’ Conference.

Last year, Pope Francis appointed him as apostolic administrator for the northern diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi. On 10 December 10 2016, Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain honoured him with the National Human Rights Award.