03/27/2007, 00.00
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Pakistani Catholics “close to Christ’s suffering”

by Qaiser Felix
They know the human sorrows that bearing witness can bring about in a Muslim country. They prepared for Easter by fundraising and doing penance.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Pakistani Catholics are celebrating Lent this year in prayer and penance but also in fundraising for the poor and charity, which they experience in particular way: as “witnesses of the suffering that faith can bring about.”

Mgr Lawrence J. Saldanha, archbishop of Lahore, told AsiaNews that “like every year, Lent is organised by the national branch of Caritas. Prayer books, religious images and offering boxes are given out. Funds raised this way will go to help the poor who will be offered job training courses and basic goods.”

“At this time of the year, as the Passion [of Christ] and Easter get closer, the 14 Stations of the Via Crucis draw particular attention; believers want to feel close to Christ’s suffering,” the archbishop said.

In each diocese, “a Calvary scene is built where the faithful come to pray, sing hymns and read the Scriptures,” he added.

Also for Mgr Joseph Coutts, bishop of Faisalabad, “the faithful in Pakistan feel particularly close to Christ’s suffering.” For him this closeness to repentance during Lententide comes from the fact that they “know the human sorrows that bearing witness can bring about. Their faith is strong and this helps them join through prayer the pain Christ endured.”

Pakistan’s Catholics have been one of the most affected minorities by Islamic fundamentalism. Blasphemy laws and Hudood Ordinances have made life difficult for the small number of faithful living in this overwhelmingly Muslim country. Out of a population of 150 millions, Catholics are but 1.2 million, 85 per cent living below the poverty line.

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