Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - "I want to thank the
entire diocesan community, because I would never have been able to carry this heavy
cross without your help, love, support and prayers." With these touching and
grateful words Mgr. Joseph
Coutts, the newly appointed archbishop of Karachi,
has bid farewell to the community of Faisalabad,
which he has led since 1998. On
14 March in the cathedral, the prelate celebrated a farewell Mass, which was
attended by 800 people including priests, nuns, catechists, students,
journalists and representatives of civil society. The
next day he left for the Archdiocese of Karachi, but not before he had given
thanks "to God and the Holy Father [the Pope] for choosing me as head of
the Christian community." Bishop
Coutts (pictured center) is president of the Bishops' Conference of Pakistan
and wishes "all Christians to be united and spread the message of love,
peace, harmony and teachings of Jesus Christ."
A shower of flowers, songs and prayers welcomed the arrival of Mgr. Coutts in the cathedral, to celebrate his last Mass in the historic diocese. During the ceremony he received the shield of faith for his efforts in favor of interreligious dialogue and peace, along with many other gifts brought by hundreds of people present at the ceremony.
Pastor Samson of the Presbyterian Church recalled "the 2008 law passed thanks to his personal commitment" which guarantees a reduction of six-month sentence for Christian inmates who complete a Bible study in prison. Fr. Bashir Francis, diocesan priest, turned to the prelate expressing the wish that "Karachi will become a land of peace, thanks to his initiatives." The President of the La Salle Congregation, Fr. Shahsaz Gill, recalled Mgr. Coutts' efforts in the education and formation of the Christian community, Fr. Parvez Emmanuel, former vicar general of Faisalabad, finally said he sees"a reflection of Jesus Christ the archbishop" because he is "a symbol of simplicity, humility and peace."
Msgr Joseph Coutts, 66, was born July 21, 1945 in Amritsar, in what was then British India during days of colonialism. He studied at the seminary in Karachi and Lahore on January 9, 1971 he was ordained a priest. He later led the minor seminary in the city, before being appointed vicar general from 1986 to 1988. On 5 May of that year he was appointed bishop of Hyderabad, where he defended the rights of poor peasants and fought for the creation of the Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta. On 27 June 1998, the transfer to Faisalabad, where he has opened the path to dialogue with Muslim religious leaders and laid the bridges for dialogue between cultures.
At the end of the Mass, the bishop announced that Msgr. Rufin Anthony - Bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi - will fill the role of apostolic administrator of the diocese of Faisalabad "with immediate effect".