After Easter Sunday terror, Pakistan's Catholics see hope in new priests

Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw at the Rites of Ordination to the Priesthood of 5 Cappuchin deacons at Sacred Heart Cathedral Lahore Apr 8 2016 Credit Asif Nazir CNA 4 14 16 Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore with the newly ordained at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore, Pakistan, April 8, 2016. | Asif Nazir.

Just weeks after the deadly Easter Sunday attacks on Christians, Catholics in Pakistan had a time to rejoice: five new young priests were ordained for the Capuchin Franciscans.

Asif Nazir, a local catechist and teacher, told CNA that the ordinations are "a blessing and gift of God to our Catholic Church and our country."

More than 800 people packed Sacred Heart Cathedral in Lahore last Friday. Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore ordained the five Capuchin friars to the priesthood April 8: Lazar Aslam, Adnan Kashif, Azam Siddique, Almas Yousaf, and Adeel Mazhar.

The same day, Bishop Benny Travas of Multan ordained another two men priests.

Nazir said the celebration is a chance "to bring us happiness, when our land is still in tears from the memorial service of the recent violent attacks on Christians who are a target of religious hatred and discrimination."

"We need prayers so that more courageous young people respond to the call of vocation to serve Christ our saviour and work to proclaim the good news of the Gospel to bring harmony, peace, and justice."

The Archdiocese of Lahore is still recovering from the shock of the March 27 terrorist attack in the city, which killed more than 70 persons at a public park. Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Pakistani Taliban splinter group, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying their intent was to target Christians on Easter. While many of the victims were Christians, most of those who died were Muslims.

At the ordination Mass, Archbishop Shaw used his homily to urge the ordinandi "to seek God in life." He reminded them of Pope Francis' warning not to be "vain priests" who live for their own pleasures, saying that such a priest "acts like a peacock."

The archbishop stressed the importance of prayer in a priest's life and asked the new priests to imitate St. Francis of Assisi, who put his trust completely in the hands of God.

"Pray like St. Francis," Archbishop Shaw exhorted them.

He asked the young priests to strengthen their spiritual life by always making a priority of reading the gospel.

"Listen to the word of God: it will always give you what is suitable for your Capuchin life and it will always give you the advice on what is suitable for your life," the archbishop continued. "It will also advise you what things you must give up or deny and when you learn to deny things, it will give you the courage … God will give you the power to fulfil your role in the Church."

The archbishop praised the ordinands' parents for their role bringing up their children with love for the Church.

"I must salute the parents for the excellent formation of these new priests," he said.

The new priests are members of the Capuchins' Mariam Siddeeqa Custody. The Capuchins have been present in Pakistan since 1888, and their pastoral mission includes outreach to people of all religions through schools, health centers, social centers, and partnerships with local government agencies.

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