Hundreds of Catholics in Pakistan gathered last month for a Mass of Thanksgiving which kicked off celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the foundation of Caritas Pakistan, part of the worldwide confederation of Catholic relief organizations. “It is a very special occasion to celebrate this glorious occasion of a 50 years' journey of works of solidarity that Caritas Pakistan and the bishops have courageously committed to in taking the Gospel's values to people in distressing situations, despite facing growing persecution and discriminations against the Christian community,” Asif Nazir, a Caritas member in the country told CNA Oct. 15. Nazir pointed out that through Caritas “the bishops in Pakistan have stood strong with undeterred faith, reaching remote areas and helping people of all religions in times of calamity and natural disasters.” Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, who is chairman of Caritas Pakistan, celebrated the thanksgiving Mass in Lahore's Youhanabad neighborhood Sept. 17. Concelebrants included Bishop Rufin Anthony of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad, Bishop Benny Travas of Multan, and a number of priests. During his homily Archbishop Coutts reflected on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, saying, “Our work is not complete without compassion.”  

Credit: Caritas Pakistan.

Amjad Gulzar, executive director of Caritas Pakistan, thanked the organization's benefactors as well as the local and central government, saying that “this golden jubilee gives us a chance to renew our commitment to helping the poor and is not the end of a program, but the beginning of a new venture.” Caritas Pakistan is the social agency of the nation's bishops, which was established in 1965 to provide support for families and children, the elderly, homeless, refugees, prisoners, the disabled, and to assist in peace building and environmental issues. It has helped the Church in the country to provide education, health, and social development, to uplift the Pakistani community. The celebration of the anniversary included a workshop on Pope Francis' 2015 encyclical Laudato si'. Fr. Pascal Robert, a professor at Karachi's National Catholic Institute of Theology, said it is “a call to relate ourselves with every creature alive.” Estephen David, climate change officer at Caritas Pakistan, noted that “Pakistan ranks number 15 among the countries on the climate change risk index … the World Bank estimates that climate change in South Asia has impacted on Pakistan a loss of around $3.57 billion over the past 18 years.”