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Pakistani cathedral pays homage to Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier

Diocese of Hyderabad Pakistani cathedral pays homage to Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier

Saint Francis Xavier Cathedral in Hyderabad is a British-colonial-era religious landmark in Pakistan’s eighth-largest city that beholds the centuries-old heritage of Christianity in the country. It is the mother church of the Hyderabad Diocese.

The church is located at the center of the capital city of Sindh province and serves as the focal point for Catholicism in the area. The first church was blessed on March 9, 1842, and it became a cathedral on April 28, 1950. The present cathedral was renovated and reopened on Feb. 23, 1990, during the tenure of late Franciscan Bishop Bonaventure Patrick Paul of Hyderabad

The façade of the church has an image of Saint Francis Xavier who is also the patron of the church. The cathedral gained popularity in the religious and cultural circle firstly when Franciscan Father Francis Kotwani, a native Sindhi, was ordained a Catholic priest in 1944 and when he completed his golden jubilee of priestly ordination.

Sindh is the third largest among the four provinces of Pakistan with Karachi as its provincial capital. The port city is known as the commercial capital of the country thanks to its major contributions to Pakistan’s economy.  The region is famous across the globe for the Indus Valley Civilization and its many historical buildings.

The Cathedral is flanked by two highly-acclaimed Catholic institutes – Saint Mary’s Higher Secondary School and Saint Bonaventure’s High School. Pakistani historian Momin Bullo in his book Hyderabad Revisited lists Saint Bonaventure’s School as a heritage building owing to British colonial-era history. Catholic missionaries laid the foundation of the school in the 1920s and early 1930s to educate the locals.

However, during the partition era between 1945-1948, Father Archilles Meersman at the Franciscan seminary in Karachi built a new school with deeply rooted Franciscan ideologies. He named the school after Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. The school and the church building are both considered part of the rich cultural heritage of Sindh Province.

The church has also witnessed the socio-political turmoil of the country. In 2007, when military chief General Pervez Musharraf staged a coup, grabbed power, and declared a state of emergency, Bishop Max John Rodrigues of Hyderabad offered a Special Mass and asked the people to pray for their nation.

The church also faced attacks from angry protesters in 2012 when the anti-Islamic film “Innocence of Muslims” was released. The mob barged into the cathedral and destroyed its windows and other parts. Mother Christina of Lady Gram Hospital who rushed to the gate after hearing the commotion narrowly escaped bullets that were fired by the rioters towards her. In the event, a driver was wounded in his legs from a gunshot.

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral has waved through an eventful history and silently marches forward as it continues to boost the faith of the thousands of Catholics in the region.

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