Cardinal Joseph Coutts has called on Pakistanis to open their hearts and help those hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The 74-year-old archbishop of Karachi, who was bishop of Faisalabad from 1998 to 2012, became a cardinal in June 2018. Cardinal Coutts answered questions from UCA News about the coronavirus situation in Pakistan. Q: What’s your message to Catholic faithful who cannot attend public Masses due to the closure of churches?
A: Nothing can stop us from the Love of God. Nothing can keep us from worshiping Our Lord. One of my faithful told me that his eyes were filled with tears of joy and happiness when he saw the Blessed Sacrament in front of him at his door. For him it was really a blessed time.
Many people have been able to follow services through our Facebook, YouTube and local cable TV channels. In addition, some priests walked with a large crucifix to bless homes and people wherever there were Christians. They remained inside but stood in open doorways, in windows and some even on their rooftops. In one parish of the Archdiocese of Karachi where there is a large concentration of Christians, it took the priest two days to walk through the narrow alleys and streets early in the morning to ensure that every Christian house received the blessings of the Blessed Sacrament. How is the Catholic Church responding to the prevailing atmosphere of fear caused by Covid-19?
The lockdown was a new experience for everybody, and many devoted Catholics felt that they would be deprived of Holy Mass and other devotional practices. But let me praise and thank our priests for using many creative ways of using social media to reach out to the faithful during the Holy Week and Easter services. How is the Church helping faithful affected by the economic fallout of the lockdown?
We are helping our poor with whatever resources we have at our disposal. I am particularly concerned about daily wagers who are the hardest hit by the coronavirus lockdown. Philanthropists and charities should step in and help those in need. The president of Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi, Hafiz Naeem ul Haq, paid a visit to you at Easter and offered rations for poor Christian families. Does it bode well for interfaith harmony?
Not only Jamaat-e-Islami, several other Muslim brothers and sisters reached out to us saying they want to extend help to poor Christian families. I appreciated and accepted their help. Our people are confined to their homes with very limited financial resources. Any help under these circumstances is a welcome step. I, therefore, request everyone to open their hearts and arms in helping poor people regardless of their faith. It is the need of the hour to demonstrate unity as a nation and promote interreligious harmony. What are your plans for reopening churches?
We hope and pray that the onset of warm weather will stem the spread of the virus. But we have directed churches to be on alert and follow any directives given by the government and health department. As far as the reopening of churches is concerned, a lot will depend on the lifting of the lockdown.
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