Multan Diocese Gets Six Priests In ´Historic´ Ordination

2004-12-13 00:00:00

Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan has ordained six priests for his diocese in central Pakistan, an event that local Catholics describe as historic.

"This historical day of six new priests is a sign of growth of the local Church," Father Aftab James Paul proclaimed during his homily at the Dec. 8 ordination Mass in the Cathedral of the Holy Redeemer. The diocese is based in Multan city, 630 kilometers south of Islamabad.

Father Paul, who is from Faisalabad diocese, which was carved out of Multan in 1960, pointed out that some of the newly ordained priests studied in Faisalabad. He called this "a sign of a participatory Church."

Three of them studied theology at Our Lady of Lanka Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

Parishioners told UCA News that they could not remember the last time Multan diocese ordained more than two priests at once. One remarked that it was "a great thing" to have six new priests "as we got one or two at most (each year) in the last 20 years."

During the ordination rite, Bishop Francis told the congregation of thousands that his diocese is on its way to becoming a self-supporting Church. "The ordination of six young men is proof that we are making progress in becoming self-supporting in personnel," he said. He urged every Catholic family to offer one of their sons and daughters for service to the Church to further the process of becoming self-supporting in personnel.

"As the population is growing, there is dire need of more priests for our society. Each family is asked to offer their children for the great services to God and his people," the bishop exhorted.

According to the 2004 Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican yearbook, Multan had 11 diocesan priests and an equal number of Religious priests serving in 18 parishes before the recent ordinations.

Father Shahzad Niamat, one of the newly ordained priests, spoke for all of them in thanking everyone present. "For us six brothers, our families, Bishop Andrew Francis and all the faithful, it is a happy day as we take steps toward becoming a self-supporting Church, trying to stand on our own feet."

He compared the local community to godparents, a relatively new idea in the local Church, who "helped us after our parents to support us morally and financially for the preparations of this ordination." This is another sign of being self-supporting, where local people try to come forward and help instead of depending on others, the new priest said.

He especially thanked lay Catholics who came from all over the diocese in 55 buses and private vehicles. The vicar general of Quetta prefecture, and clergy and Religious from Lahore archdiocese and Faisalabad diocese also came.

Multan diocese was part of Lahore archdiocese until it became an apostolic prefecture in 1936. It became a diocese three years later.

According to the Pakistan Catholic Bishops´ Conference website, the population of the diocesan area in southern Punjab province is about 7.5 million, of whom 200,000 are Christians. Muslims form about 95 percent of Pakistan´s population.


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