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Faith sustains Pakistani Catholics, says visiting bishop


Bishop Anthony Lobo of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Pakistan speaks at the rectory of Immaculate Conception Parish, Revere June 25. The Pilot/Gregory L. Tracy

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REVERE — Bishop Anthony Lobo of the Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, Pakistan, is accustomed to turmoil.

Speaking at the rectory of Immaculate Conception Parish in Revere, one of the local churches he is visiting to raise awareness of the situation in Pakistan, his calm demeanor belies the difficulties he and his flock face in his native land.

Approximately 2 percent of Pakistan’s population is Christian, and of those, only half are Catholic. Another 2 percent is Hindu; the remaining 96 percent of the country is Muslim.

In Bishop Lobo’s diocese, which includes the contested region of Kashmir, the numbers are even more stark. Of the 35 million people living within his diocese, fewer than 170,000 are Catholic, according to the most recent information given on the Web site CatholicHierarchy.org. The same Web site indicates there are only 16 priests to minister to the Catholics in the diocese.

“Christians are marginalized in our society,” explained Bishop Lobo, due in part to the history of the Church in Pakistan.

According to the bishop, when missionaries first came to the Pakistani people, only the peasants, the poor, and the slaves accepted Christianity. Because no wealthy or powerful Muslim or Hindu families ever converted, the religion became identified with the poor, those who were “on the fringes of society.”

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