"Sacrifice of the Martyrs of Bahawalpur Will Not Be in Vain"

Pastoral Letter, and Directives, from Pakistani Bishops

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, NOV. 11, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of a pastoral letter and directives by the Catholic bishops of Pakistan in the wake of the Oct. 28 massacre at a church in Bahawalpur.

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Pastoral Letter of the Roman Catholic Bishops of Pakistan

We, the Catholic Bishops of Pakistan, strongly condemn the act of terrorism in Bahawalpur during the Sunday service on the 28th of October, 2001. Fifteen worshipping Christians and one Muslim Police guard were gunned down in cold blood at St. Dominic?s Catholic Church. Many critically injured are still lying in hospital.

WE thank our Holy Father Pope John Paul II for sending a Special Envoy, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, to show his concern for the welfare of all our people and his closeness to us in prayer for peace in this region. His timely message of condolence, read out at the funeral, absolutely condemning the massacre at Bahawalpur as an evil act, has greatly consoled and strengthened us, in this hour of grief.

All of us have received messages from the President and cabinet ministers, civil and military officials and our Muslim brothers and sisters from all walks of life. We are deeply touched by their sympathy and expressions of condolence which revealed a reservoir of goodness, that flowed out spontaneously from their hearts.

Now, more than any other time, we must come together to work actively in Aman (Peace) Committees, and engage in inter-religious dialogue to bring about social harmony. Together with the Bishops of the Church of Pakistan, we have called for a Memorial Services for the Martyrs of Bahawalpur.

We are deeply concerned for the suffering people of Afghanistan and pray that peace may be soon established in their country. In the meantime, our Christian charitable organizations are doing their best to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan refugees, and to those suffering inside Afghanistan. We exhort all to contribute to do the President?s Fund, established for their relief and rehabilitation.

At the closing of our Liturgical Year, we will celebrate the feast of Christ the King. Let this be a procession for peace, which symbolizes all our prayers and efforts to have peace in our minds and hearts, in our families and relationships with one another and with our brothers and sisters of other faiths.

Many of our people, at this time, are naturally worried and afraid. They feel helpless and hopeless. But our faith teaches us that, powerless though we be, we can put all our trust in God, who alone can bring light out of darkness, order out of chaos, life out of death and good out of evil.

May our prayerful reading of the Bible and our frequent recourse to the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance nourish and strengthen our life of faith. It is faith that enables to experience the presence of Christ, who is close to us even in the midst of the storm (Matthew 14:27). He alone can give us that peace which the world cannot give (John 14:27). We exhort our faithful to recite the family Rosary and special prayers for peace everyday.

Some people are, humanly speaking, confused, but the command of Christ is quite clear, as to what we must do. There is only one way which we must go and that is the Way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He tells us there is only one commandment: to love, even our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44). St. Paul tells us that we must «never return evil for evil, but must conquer evil — by doing good» (Romans 12:21) Christ crucified violence, not by inflicting it, but embracing it on the Cross. With Christ crucified, we will also conquer it. He told us «all those who take up the sword, shall perish by the sword» (Matthew 26:52).

We strongly believe that the sacrifice of the martyrs of Bahawalpur will not be in vain and we fervently pray that their blood may wash away the hatred and violence from the hearts of all people in our country, so that we learn to work for the progress, prosperity and peace of all the people of Pakistan.

May Mary, mother of the Church, enfold us all in her protective arms.
The Catholic Bishops? Conference of Pakistan.

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We must identity certain flashpoints, places and times (days) which would be a high risk for us and for expatriate personnel. They could be advised to move to safer areas and keep a low profile. Catechists should play a more prominent role in pastoral care.

We must be prudent in giving interviews to the local and foreign press. Even though published abroad, these statements can come back to embarrass us.
We should take extra security measures during Church Services by appointing ushers who would check persons and look out for suspicious bags.

Social harmony committees should go on working in parishes. In every diocese, and Emergency Cell is to set up to receive and verify reports of any disturbances. They should supply phone numbers of police, hospital, fire brigade, ambulance, etc. Be sure to maintain close contact with your local police station and Nazims (councilors).

Avoid spreading and believing in wild rumors. Rather check with the Social Harmony Central office in Lahore or in your diocese.

Worship services and homilies should generate peace, hope and witness to Gospel values. Use the Mass for Peace and for times of Civil Disturbance found in the Roman Missal.

Executive secretaries (both diocesan and national) — of the three commissions (Justice and Peace, Interfaith Dialogue and Caritas) should meet and work out a methodology to implement those directives.

The Catholic Bishops? Conference of Pakistan

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