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.
Gonsalo's martyrdom at Nagasaki with the other Christian missionaries is regarded as the most tragic and historic event for Catholicism in Japan
Calungsod and his companion Father Vitores baptized infants, children and adults, defying the risk of persecution and murder
Despite being an ordinary layman, Ruiz remained defiant while facing torture by the Japanese and died a brave martyr
He was the first Korean-born Catholic priest and is now the patron saint of Korea
This fabled church is also known by its Syriac name Mar Sleeva (Holy Cross) Church
Asian Catholics who cannot visit famous Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in France can revere miraculous Mother Mary at Velankanni shrine in India. The Basilica of Our Lady of Good Health is popularly known as “the Lourdes of the East” and holds the largest Catholic Church in Asia.
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.
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.
The shrine holds a three-meter-tall, white-stone carved statue Virgin Mary on the Tao Pao Mountain in the Diocese of Phan Thiet in southern Vietnam, about 1,600 kilometers from the national capital Hanoi.
The Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Urakami of Nagasaki is a witness of persecution of Christians from 17th to 19th centuries and deadly atomic bombing during the Second World War. This European-style, red-brick church continues to preserve some relics that survived the atomic bombing. Urakami cathedral, also known as St. Mary’s Cathedral, was almost destroyed when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945. The church stood about 500 meters from the hypocenter of atomic explosion. The devastation shattered and charred stone-made statues of saints, which were later preserved as relics along with the surviving head of Virgin Mary statue and one of the church’s original bells.
Our Lady of Akita Catholic Church is Yuzawadai is among the most famous churches in Japan. The church shot into global fame thanks to a wooden statue of Blessed Virgin Mary that wept 101 times and Marian apparitions to Japanese nun Sister Agnes Katsuko Sasagawa that miraculously healed her hearing impairment. Japanese wooden sculptor Saburo Wakasa from Akita city carved the now-famous miraculous statue of Virgin Mary in 1963.
The Church of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception in Seria is a small church on the western Belait district of Brunei, but it shot into fame thanks to the nation’s most famous Catholic – late Cardinal Cornelius Sim. It is also the second of three churches in Brunei dedicated to Virgin Mary. In fact, Mary has a prominent place not only in Christianity, but also in Islam, the dominant faith in Brunei. Holy Quran mentions Mary seventy times and reveres her as the greatest woman to have ever lived.