Pakistan’s Catholics join Muslims in remembering Benazir Bhutto


Catholics in Pakistan joined their countrymen in grieving for Benazir Bhutto with a special Mass in Lahore on Sunday.

UCA News reports that more than 300 people including nuns, human rights activists, and leaders from Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) were in attendance.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore, who also heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan, concelebrated the memorial Mass with Father Andrew Nisari, vicar general of the archdiocese.

Attendees placed garlands, bouquets, and candles by the large portraits of Bhutto at the altar and in front of the cathedral.  They displayed banners reading: "We salute Benazir Bhutto for struggling for the restoration of minorities' rights and prosperity for the poor," "She was a hope for minorities" and "We demand immediate arrest of the killers of Bhutto."

Jehangir Badar, PPP general secretary, said in a speech: "We vow, in this holy assembly, to continue the mission of our courageous leader, who respected the Christian community and considered them equal citizens." He reiterated his party's demand for a United Nations commission to investigate the murder.

Similar gatherings took place in other churches where Catholic and Protestant leaders prayed together alongside Muslims.

Conflicting accounts of Bhutto’s assassination, which reportedly involved both a gun attack and an explosive device, have confused the country and increased tensions.  Pakistan’s Interior Ministry first reported that the former prime minister had died from a bullet or shrapnel wound, but later claimed she died from a skull fracture caused by the explosion. This claim was also later withdrawn.

The Catholic Women Organization (CWO), which operates under the auspices of the Pakistan bishops’ conference, echoed critics of the government reports.  It called for “a credible and neutral investigation” of the attack.  CWO national coordinator Firdous Margaret said a proper investigation was “a must” to ensure stability in the country.

“We also demand that the government should not make statements in speculation about the culprits before the investigation is completed,” she said. “Let the crime be dealt with as a crime.”

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