11/04/2016, 10.41
PAKISTAN - VATICAN
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Pakistan, Anglicans welcome Pope Francis’ opening towards Protestants

by Kamran Chaudhry

Christian leaders react to Pope’s trip to Sweden. By the end of the century Islam will overtake Christianity. In Pakistan, Christians are now a minority, and for this must be even more united. The Youhanabad settlement, an example of coexistence between Catholics and Protestants.

 

Lahore (AsiaNews) - Pakistani protestant officials are appreciating Pope Francis for marking the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Sweden this week.  "Personally I appreciate the Pope for bridging the gaps of centuries. It is a very big step for ecumenical movement", Anglican orthodox Bishop Earnest Jacob of Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan, told AsiaNews.

"Pew Research Center predicts that Islam will overtake Christianity by the end of the century. We cannot afford to stay divided. Christians of Pakistan are already in minority and we have common mixed marriages between Catholics and Protestants. Especially Church leaders in conflicted regions like our city (which has been frequently targeted by Taliban) hold joint celebrations, press conferences and funerals (post Taliban attacks) to send a message to the terrorists".

Bishop Jacob's comments echoed the joint declaration of Francis with Bishop Munib A. Younan, the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan.

"At the same time, we have drawn closer to one another through joint service to our neighbours – often in circumstances of suffering and persecution. Through dialogue and shared witness we are no longer strangers", it states.

Protestants in Pakistan are largely represented by Church of Pakistan; the denomination that includes Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran and Church of Scotland merged in one in 1970. There is no Lutheran Bishop in Islamic Republic, according to Victor Azariah General Secretary National Council of Churches in Pakistan. www.nccpakistan.org.pk

"Jesus created no denomination and only talked of the good news. Stronger factions later became part of our religion. Francis' predecessors also supported Christian brotherhood but he is seriously interested in ecumenical dialogue. We welcome the extraordinary events of this week, people should follow and understand its meaning for the Church", he said.

Azariah also referred to joint movement against nationalization of Church properties and Youhanabad, the biggest Christian settlement in country, as prime example of Christian unity in Pakistan.

All Churches protested when the government nationalized Christian schools and colleges in Punjab and Sindh provinces in 1972. It later denationalized them between 1985 and 1995 without offering any compensation. Similarly Azariah aided Father Henri, a Belgian missionary, in purchasing land and setting up Youhanabad, which is home to a mix community of more than 100,000 Catholics and Protestant.

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