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Church bids farewell to former head

Retiring archbishop 'supported inter-religious harmony and dialogue' for a decade

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha (center) receiving a shield of appreciation on his retirement Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha (center) receiving a shield of appreciation on his retirement
  • ucanews.com reporter, Lahore
  • Pakistan
  • June 13, 2011
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Hundreds of Catholic clergy and laypeople attended a thanksgiving Mass on June 11 for newly-retired Archbishop Emeritus of Lahore, Lawrence Saldanha.

More than 500 Catholics and all the diocese’s 58 priests attended the Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore in honor of the archbishop, who headed the Catholic Church for nine years.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Edgar Pena Perra concelebrated the mass with Bishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore.

“I was ordained the archbishop on 9/11, the accursed day terrorists attacked the United States in 2001. Osama bin Laden, the mastermind, died shortly after I resigned, said the archbishop.

Speakers paid tribute to Archbishop Saldanha, who "strongly supported inter-religious harmony and dialogue during a decade of the 'war on terror'.” They remembered major instances of Christian persecution, all in Punjab province, in his era including:

Church attacks in Sangla Hill, 2005
burning of Christian houses in Bahmani Wala, 2009
anti Christian violence in Gojra and Korian, 2009
assassination of Catholic federal minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti, 2011

Bishop Shah commended the archbishop for serving in a tense environment. “It was a tough challenge to lead and encourage the targeted faithful. Equally, he was partial as president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference, thinking above his own diocese”, said the bishop.

The nuncio acknowledged “the difficult circumstances” and also assured the faithful of his prayers and support. The congregation later garlanded the bishops while the students performed cultural dances.

Archbishop Saldanha served as the first executive secretary of Caritas Pakistan, chairman of Radio Veritas Asia, president of the Federation of Asian Bishop’s Cinference and a UCAN board member before announcing his retirement in March this year. He remains chairman of the National Commission for Social Communications and the National Commission for Justice and Peace as well as seminary commission.

Including Bishop Shah, 13 bishops have served Lahore archdiocese, home to about 300,000 Catholics.

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