Cardinal Joseph Coutts (center) is greeted by a crowd at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi on July 10. (Photo by Zahid Hussain/ucanews.com)
Newly appointed Pakistan Cardinal Joseph Coutts has been passionately welcomed home by the Catholic community on his return from the Vatican.
Scores of parishioners, not least women and children, led by Vicar General Father Saleh Diego, greeted the cardinal at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi at around 1am on July 10.
He was presented with a bouquet and a traditional Sindhi shawl before being whisked away by police amid tight security.
Archbishop of Karachi Joseph Coutts was elevated to the rank of a cardinal following a consistory in the Apostolic Palace at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on June 28.
He was among 14 bishops who received red hats from the Pope. Among others were new cardinals from Iraq, Portugal, Peru, Madagascar, Italy and Japan.
Some five kilometers from the airport, a welcoming camp was set up near Drigh Road Railway Station where hundreds of people lined up to receive the cardinal.
There was a spectacular display of fireworks and Cardinal Coutts was showered with rose petals while admirers danced to the beating of drums.
At least three other camps were set up on the route from St. Peter's Church to the airport.
"We have gathered here to receive Cardinal Bishop Coutts and thank Pope Francis for remembering the persecuted Catholic community," Father Arthur Charles, the former vicar general of Karachi, told ucanews.com.
"It's a huge moment, not only for the Christian community, but also for Pakistan as Joseph Coutts is only the second cardinal from the country."
The priest said the community felt spiritually elevated over the appointment as the cardinal had worked hard to promote interfaith harmony in Pakistan.
Gulfam Masih, 65, brought his children and wife to get a glimpse of the cardinal.
"We are very glad and excited at his elevation," Masih told ucanews.com. "This has brought so much joy to the faces of Christians in this country."