Capuchin Father Khalid Rehmat, who edited Lahore Archdiocese's bimonthly magazine Catholic Naqeeb, was appointed bishop of Quetta on Jan. 1. (Photo supplied)
Pope Francis has named Capuchin Father Khalid Rehmat as the new vicar apostolic of Quetta in Pakistan's restive Balochistan province.
The Vatican announced the appointment on Jan. 1, making some local Catholics call it a New Year gift from Pope Francis.
Catholics worldwide took to social media to congratulate the bishop-elect.
"The New Year 2021 is begun with great blessing in the form of the nomination of Rev. Fr. Khalid Rehmat, the present custos, as the bishop-elect of Quetta Apostolic Vicariate," said a social media post from St. Francis of Assisi Urdu Church in Antwerp, Belgium.
Most members of the Antwerp-based parish are migrants from Pakistan and speak Urdu, their national language.
Father Khalid is "the first Pakistani Capuchin priest to be nominated as a bishop in Pakistan. God bless you, dear bishop-elect," said their post.
Bishop-elect Rehmat was born in 1968 in Islamabad-Rawalpindi Diocese. He made the solemn profession of a Capuchin priest in 2007.
Since 2018, he has been editor of Lahore Archdiocese's bimonthly magazine Catholic Naqeeb (herald).
He succeeds the late Bishop Victor Gnanapragasam, who founded the apostolic prefecture of Quetta. The Sri Lankan missionary died on Dec. 12, 2020.
The appointment of Father Rehmat "is a positive step forward for the Pakistani Church," said Father Bonnie Mendes, former executive secretary of the Catholic bishops' National Commission for Justice and Peace.
"A foreigner cannot speak up for the rights of the poor," Father Mendes said, adding that a foreigner's thinking will be "alien to local culture. I support him."
However, Father Rehmat should learn the local languages of Baluchi and Pushto immediately. "The local medium is important to speak to the people of Baluchistan," Father Mendes told UCA News.
Capuchin Father Morris Jalal, the founder and executive director of Catholic TV, said the papal decision suits the missionary Diocese of Quetta.
The mission of Quetta was given to the Oblates in 1982 by the southern Diocese of Hyderabad. It now goes to Capuchins with the appointment of a Capuchin as its head.
"Religious congregations can run a missionary diocese better. Father Rehmat is an all-rounder with experiences of both as a pastor and a media person," Father Jalal said.
The bishop-elect also served as rector of Capuchin Formation House in Lahore and a teacher at St Mary's Minor Seminary, the Franciscan priests' formation house.
He was also a member of the College of Consultors of the Archdiocese of Lahore and Archdiocesan Biblical Commission. He was the Pakistani Capuchins' Economic Commission coordinator. He was also a member of the Provincial Council of the Capuchins until October 2020.
The bishop-elect also has pastoral experience as parish priest of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Adah, Sialkot, in the Archdiocese of Lahore.
In November, he was elected custos of the Capuchins in Pakistan in an election held online for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.