by Zia Ur Rehman
September 22, 2015
“I ask you to join me in praying for my trip to Cuba and the United States,” Pope Francis had tweeted on September 18 and responding to the Holy Father’s call, many Catholic Christian families in Karachi have left for Washington DC, New York and Philadelphia to see him.
The Pope will spend six days in the three American cities this week from September 22 to 27.
Michael Javed, a former parliamentarian, is among them. He left for the US with his wife and children on Monday.
“For us, it’s not sightseeing trip. Its basic purpose is to strengthen our spiritual life by seeing the Pope,” Javed told The News.
He personally knows of 25 families that have left for the US to see the Pope, and the number is likely to be much higher.
Catholic Christian leaders say that the problem for their community members is that the Pope cannot come to Pakistan because of security concerns and European countries do not issue them visas for attending papal Masses.
Javed thanked the US Embassy in Pakistan for issuing visas to Pakistani Christians.
Pope John Paul II was the Holy Father who had visited Pakistan. On February 16, 1981 in Karachi, a bomb had exploded at the National Stadium just 15 minutes before the pope had to arrive there for Mass attended by 70,000 people.
“Although there weren’t many causalities, the blast had terribly affected Pakistan’s Catholics Christians” said Javed, who, who was 27 at that time and had taken a group of 800 students of the St Michael’s Grammar School holding flags of the Vatican and Pakistan to attend the Mass. “No other pope came to our country again after that incident.”
On his 12-day far-east trip, the Pope had arrived in Karachi for a three-hour stopover during which he had privately met then Pakistan president Ziaul Haq and thanked the nation for sheltering the Afghan refugees displaced because of the Soviet invasion in the their country.
In September 2004, Pope John Paul II had received then Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf at the Vatican.
Joseph Marie Anthony Cordeiro, the archbishop of Karachi, was the first and so far the only Pakistani to have been appointed a cardinal in March 1973. He was elevated to the position by Pope Paul VI. He died of cancer in February 1994 at the Holy Family Hospital.