In a land area of around 178,341 square kilometers, the diocese covers the divisions of Rawalpindi, Sargodha, the whole Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the part of the disputed Kashmir region under Pakistani control and federally administered tribal areas and the Northern Areas and Gujrat district of Gujranwala division.
Islamabad-Rawalpindi diocese covers a big region with Taliban presence in the northwest. Still, this northern province continues to be a major tourist attraction due to several scenic valleys and mountainous regions. The diocese is strategically placed because of Islamabad being the seat of the government.
There are around 26 languages, out of country's 69 languages, spoken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The principal language is Pushto while Hindko is the second most commonly spoken indigenous language with many dialects. Urdu and Punjabi speaking migrants account for only two per cent of the households.
Taxila, near Islamabad, is well-known for being the center of Buddhism as well as the centre for learning and culture. The Peshawar valley was the hub of Gandhara art. Its sculptures blended classic Greek influences and local traditions to depict events in Buddha's life.
According to early Christian legend, the city was visited by the Apostle St. Thomas during 52 A.D. Pope Benedict feels the area St. Thomas evangelized was "western India" corresponding roughly to today's Pakistan. Christians unofficially visit the shrine of St. Thomas in the ruins of Taxila.
According to some other historians, it was St. Bartholomew who started the evangelization of these regions. In the last century, chaplains of the British army established Catholic communities in Rawalpindi and Peshawar. St. Michael's Church, the first Catholic Church in Peshawar, was consecrated in 1851 and used by Irish soldiers. A whole class of people, Anglo Indians, resulted from the interaction of mostly Irish Catholic men and local women during British rule.
The foundation stone of St. John's Church was laid on March 23, 1852 and the building was completed in 1860. An Anglican Church was one of the first grand buildings to be raised in a cantonment. Here protestant army officers and leading civil officials came to pray. Churches in a cantonment or hill station confirmed British identity in and the conquest of India.
The first entry in the church's record book is dated March 3, 1852. The first baptism took place on May 27, 1855. (Source: "From Kashmir to Kabul" by Omar Khan).
The Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi was originally erected in 1887, as the Apostolic Prefecture of Kafiristan and Kashmir. The prefecture was erected from the Diocese of Lahore. In 1947, the Apostolic prefecture was elevated to a full diocese, and renamed the diocese of Rawalpindi.
In 1952, Kashmir was lost to the diocese to create the Apostolic Prefecture of Kashmir and Jammu. In 1979, the name was changed to the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi.
The climate can be extreme with intensely hot summers to freezing cold winters. The northern zone is cold and snowy in winters with heavy rainfall and pleasant summers. Its snow-capped peaks and lush green valleys of unusual beauty attract tourists from far and wide to north. Peshawar basin, however, is hot in summer and cold in winter. It has moderate rainfall. The southern zone is arid with hot summers and relatively cold winters and scantly rainfall.
Per capita income in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the third largest province in Pakistan, is 30 percent lower than the country's average per capita income. It is around US$400 and for federally administered tribal areas sill lower i.e. US$300.
In spite of tough and rigid society, the Pathans have heavy and insistent drum dance in which dancers, always male, move with uniform rhythms and steps. They dance alternatively in circles and columns, holding a sword or a gun or a handkerchief in their hands and mix the crude sounds of firing with the rhythms of drums and flutes.
On every first Friday of the month thousands of Catholics flock to Holy Cross Church of Cherpunkal in Kerala, India to revere Infant Jesus and St. Thomas, the founder of the church. The church stands on the southern bank of Meenachil River. This fabled church, also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross)Church, belongs to Catholic Diocese of Palai of the Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church.
St. Mary’s Cathedral Church in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state, is the mother church in the tribal belt of eastern India, where Belgian Jesuits laid the foundation of Catholicism in 19th century. This brownish Church, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Virgin Mary, stands on Dr. Camil Bulcke Path and nestles between St. Xavier’s College and St. Albert Major Seminary.
Basilica of Our Lady of Graces in Sardhana is a historic church that lives the memory of love and benevolence of the sole female Roman Catholic ruler in India. Our Lady of Graces Church of Sardhana stands at Meerut district in Uttar Pradesh of northern India. Consecrated in 1822, this 200-feet long church with a high central dome over the main altar, is one of the largest churches in northern India.
Saint Thomas Cathedral Basilica at Mylapore is a monumental declaration on ancient root of Christianity in India. The church was built over the tomb of St. Thomas, the Apostle who is believed to have preached Christianity in India. The cathedral preserves 2000-year-old bones of the saint and the lance that pierced him to death. Popularly known as Santhome Church, the cathedral at Chennai (formerly Madras) in Tamil Nadu state was constructed during the Portuguese era in the 16th century. “San Thome” assumes its name from St. Thomas.
St. Joseph’s Church in Lahore is the oldest Catholic Church in Pakistan that has flourished since the 19th century despite deadly sectarian violence in recent years. The church at Sarfaraz Rafiqui Road in Lahore was established as a wooden structure during the British colonial era, on Oct. 31, 1842, to provide pastoral care to the British soldiers. It completed 180 years this year.
Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith. Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica at Fort Kochi is one of the finest churches and a historic but also a landmark in Kerala state of southern India. Santa Cruz Church blends Indo-European and Gothic architectural style that draws tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists every year. The cathedral is a great place of devotion and historic significance that survived colonial conquests and invasions to the city.
The Cathedral of Good Shepherd in Singapore is a historic National Monument, but it also holds first-class relics of a French saint who brought Catholicism on the shores of city-state two centuries ago. Built in 1847, the Good Shepherd Cathedral is the oldest Catholic Church and mother church of all Catholic churches in Singapore.