The Christians in Pakistan are observing Lent "with faith, in prayer, in sharing and in charity, seeking to prepare for Easter in the best way possible, at spiritual, liturgical and pastoral levels.” The recent attacks on churches “do not shake us. Our mission continues," according to Fr Mario Rodrigues, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. He noted that since the recent episodes of intolerance against Christians, tensions seemed to have reduced.
The Catholic community will be strongly encouraged and consoled says Fr Mario, by the Pastoral Letter from the Pakistani Bishops to be read in all Catholic parishes on Sunday April 3. The Letter, signed by Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, newly-elected President of the Episcopal Conference of Pakistan, is entitled "Fear not, little flock," quoting the Gospel of Luke (12,32).
In the text of the Letter, the Bishops express their desire to "awaken in you courage and a strong faith in Jesus Christ. Being your Shepherds, we are acquainted with and recognize fully that the current situation of our Country has caused among our people feelings of fear, uncertainty and insecurity."
The Letter describes the murder of Minister Shahbaz Bhatti and the two Christians in Hyderabad as well as other recent episodes of intolerance. Responding to the fears of their flock, the Bishops wrote "We earnestly remind you to listen attentively to the voice of Our Lord Jesus Christ who says: 'Take courage!... Don't be afraid."
In the light of the teachings of the Magisterium of the Church, the Bishops urge the faithful to "infuse in ourselves and our families the spiritual values of fasting, prayer and almsgiving. Aided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, let us bring steadfastness in our daily lives,” even in times of tribulation. And, considering the imminent celebration of Easter, let us celebrate together with the Universal Church the greatest Feast of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ," which "assists us to come out of darkness, despair, fear and hopelessness, and gives strength for "a courageous Christian witness."
Like the first Apostles, who were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, "we too with courage and faithfulness must build the culture of peace, harmony and tolerance so that the light and healing of the Good News may reach every human being and foster mutual relationship and understanding and respect among peoples of different religions instead of hatred and fundamentalism." The Letter concludes with an invitation to pray for the unity of Christians, that they may spread the light and power of the Gospel throughout Pakistan.