His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, Apostolic Nuncio to Pakistan visit to Hyderabad Diocese
11th – 14th January 2022
Hyderabad (Fr. Lazar Aslam OFM Cap.): It was a time of joy to witness His Grace Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, Apostolic Nuncio in Pakistan who arrived for a four day visit to the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad. His Excellency Bishop Samson Shukardin OFM, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad, Fr. Sabir Sadiq Bhatti, Vicar General and the Clergy and Religious warmly welcomed the Apostolic Nuncio.
1. Visit to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital Latifabad – Hyderabad
Archbishop Zakhia El-Kassis, accompanied by Bishop Samson Shukardin, was welcomed by the Administrator, staff and students of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. His Grace blessed the newly built, well equipped laboratory following which he visited Bishop Emeritus, Max John Rodrigues, in the hospital and spent some time with him.
2. Diocesan Meeting at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral – Hyderabad
The Diocesean meeting was held on 11th and 12th of January, 2022 in the Community Hall. Srs. Simithia and Nadia FMCK led the evening prayer. Fr. Qaiser Feroz OFM Cap was the guest speaker. His topic of discussion was For the Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission. Through a very inspiring and thought provoking presentation, Fr. Qaiser Feroz explained what the Synod was all about – what it meant and how it would work over the next two years. The Synod was inaugurated by Pope Francis on the 9th and 10th of October, 2021 in Rome. The Dioceses all over the world started the Synodal journey together on the 17th of October, 2021.
The Nuncio addressed all the religious women present at the Diocesean assembly as mothers of those whom God had entrusted in their care. He explained how they bore the characteristics of Mother Mary as a suffering yet strong mother of her Son Jesus. His Grace asked the Religious women to be ready to make sacrifices for the sake of the people and patiently bear their crosses in order to follow Christ as the cross represents the obstacles, sufferings and challenges faced in daily life. He keenly listened to the experienced of the Religious. The day’s activities came to a conclusion with a hot sumptuous meal shared by all on a cold winter evening.
12th January 2022 started with the Morning Prayer led by Fr. Lazar Aslam OFM Cap followed by group discussions a recap of the previous day’s session by Fr. Yousaf Bagh OFM. Soon after, instructions regarding the group discussion were given. The members were divided into small groups. A Questionnaire was given to each group. There were 10 questions with sub – questions, under the following themes:
1. Companions on the journey
3. Speaking out.
5. Sharing responsibility for our Common Mission.
6. Dialogue in Church and Society
8. Authority and Participation
9. Discerning and Deciding
10. Forming ourselves in Synodality
Two additional questions only meant for the Clergy and Religious were added to the Questionnaire.
The members in each group discussed, recorded and finally presented their responses to the entire audience. Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis and Bishop Samson Shukardin visited each group and keenly listened to their sharing and discussions. The presentation by each group was commendable.
Lunch was served followed by the Business Session. The topic selected for the next Diocesan meeting was “Multicultural Dimensions of the Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad.” The Nuncio had a meeting with the clergy and religious regarding the two day activities. Experiences were shared before proceeding to the Cathedral for the Eucharistic celebration by His Grace Archbishop Christophe Zakhia and concelebrated by His Excellency Samson Shukardin and the Vicar General Rev. Fr. Sabir Sadiq. Beside the clergy and religious, a large number of parishioners were present in church and welcomed the Nuncio with gifts, traditional ajraks and Sindhi Caps. The Nuncio gave a very touching homily with emphasis on prayer – to pray to God but not like the Scribes and Pharisees. Furthermore, His Grace advised all to pray as Jesus Christ himself had taught us.
A Christmas get together was all set for the Apostolic Nuncio, Bishop Samson, the clergy and religious. A variety of games and exchange of gifts made the event a memorable one with the ideal presence of the Nuncio and His Excellency Bishop Samson. Christmas Carols were sung too. Bishop Samson thanked Sr. Arseen Anthony, Fr. Adil Albert and Sr. Roma FMM for making the party so lively. Dinner was served followed by a photo session.
3. Visit to St. Joseph Parish & St. Philip’s High School, Tando Adam
The Papal Nuncio to Pakistan Archbishop Zakhia El-Kassis accompanied by Bishop Samson Shukardin, Fr. Sabir Sadiq Bhatti (VG), Fr. Shahzad Khokhar OFM Cap Fr. Yasir Talib and Fr. Lazar Aslam OFM Cap on the 13th of January, 2022 visited the Tando Adam community. They were first welcomed St. Philip’s High School, Tando Adam, the centre of Punjabi Community and taken care of by Rev. Fr. Shahzad Khokhar OFM Cap and Rev. Sr. Gretta Gill, (PBVM) Principal of St. Philip’s High School. The youth of Shahdadpur welcomed the guests with tableaus and hymns. The children of different areas presented a dance depicting the cultures of the four provinces of Pakistan. His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis inaugurated the Sewing Centre and House of Mary, a charity place for the poor. He then blessed the new liturgical vessels and the church groups of the parish. Archbishop Zakhia El-Kassis was presented a shield and Interfaith report from Bishop Samson Shukardin and Fr. Sabir Sadiq the Vicar General. Group photos were taken with the groups of the parish. His Excellency Bishop Samson Shukardin appreciated Fr. Shahzad and Sr. Gretta Gill for the faith formation of the community. He also encouraged the youth to get educated in order to live a worthy life in society. Tea was served at the end of the program.
His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis then arrived at St. Joseph’s Parish to be among the Kutchi Kohli community. Fr. Dennis Hartnett (MHM) parish priest of St. Joseph Church, working with the Kuchi Koli community welcomed the guests in a traditional way. A group of parishioners performed the Kutchi Kohli marriage ritual followed by delicious lunch. Sr. Regina Coughlan (PBVM) showed the place where she ferments wine for Masses all over the Diocese of Hyderabad. Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis shared the message and blessings of His Holiness Pope Francis with all the faithful present there.
4. Visit to St. Paul’s Parish – Sanghar
Archbishop Zakhia El-Kassis and Bishop Samson Shukardin accompanied by Fr. Sabir Sadiq Bhatti (Vicar General Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad), Fr. Shahzad Khokhar OFM Cap, Fr. Yasir Talib (Rector Pre-minor Seminary Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad), Fr. Lazar Aslam OFM Cap and Sr. Gretta Gill (PBVM) visited St. Paul’s Parish Sanghar on 13th January, 2022.
Warmly welcomed by the parish priest, Rev. Fr. Qaiser William and Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of Christ the King (FMCK), Archbishop Zakhia El-Kassis inquired about the parish community. Fr. Qasir William gave details of 200 families residing in Sanghar. The Archbishop also requested the sisters to share regarding their ministries in Sanghar. Sr. Shakeela George, Sr. Nadia Lazar and Sr. Farzana Barkat informed His Grace Christophe about the Maternity hospital and Primary school having a strength of 150 students being taken care of besides pastoral work in the community. His Grace met various parish groups and blessed them. The children of Sunday school presented a tableau followed by presentation of Sindhi ajrak and a shield to His Grace. High tea was arranged after the program.
5. Visit to St. Isidore Church – Padri-Jo-Goth
Setting off with a sense of anticipation, His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis- Apostolic Nuncio in Pakistan visited St. Isidore parish. After Christmas day, announcements and preparations were being made in the church for the grand welcome of the Papal Representative. On 13th January, 2022 the Apostolic Nuncio along with Bishop Samson Shukardin and members of the clergy arrived at 5: pm sharp. The village presented a festive look with people gathered all along the street dancing to the beat of drums and showering petals on the worthy guests. His Grace was presented an ajrak and garlanded with flowers. The welcome all was in a traditional Sindhi custom. All desired to touch the Nuncio’s cassock, kiss his ring and wanted to have his blessings.
The church and its vicinity was packed to capacity with families who had also come from other cities as well. Young groups of the church prepared the liturgy with Fr. Sarfraz Griffin who gave an introduction. Bishop Samson Shukardin and Fr. Felix D’Souza (parish priest) concelebrated the Eucharistic celebration. Fr. Shahzad Khokhar OFM Cap translated the Nuncio’s homily which highlighted the mission of Jesus to bring the Good News. As the lepers were rejected because of their disease, Jesus healed their wounds and asked them to show the transformation to the priests and members of their society. Jesus wanted them to start a new life.
Following the Holy Mass, all parish groups came forward and presented their gifts to the Apostolic Nuncio and Bishop Samson. Fr. Felix D’Souza thanked all the people who participated in the Holy Mass especially those who supported the church in different ways. At the end, the Papal Nuncio shared his sentiments with the people. A social evening was held at St. Isidore’s High School. Sr. Alice Griffin, the Principal and staff of the school welcomed all the distinguished guests. The students prepared the welcome tableau and danced on different songs. The hard work of the School Staff and performance of the students was highly appreciated by the guests. The event concluded with cutting of the cake by the Nuncio, Bishop Samson and Sr. Alice Griffin followed by a group photo. His Excellency commended the Staff and Students for their great efforts. Last but not least was a sumptuous meal enjoyed by the guests.
6. Visit to St. Joseph Church – Matli
People were anxiously waiting at the entrance door of St. Joseph’s Church to reverently welcome His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, His Excellency Bishop Samson Shukardin accompanied by Fr. Sabir Sadiq Bhatti and Fr. Lazar Aslam OFM Cap arrived on a beautiful morning of 14th of January, 2022. Fr. Rey Tanalgo – parish priest of St. Joseph’s parish, Fr. Rebenie Madar – Assistant Parish Priest and Franciscan Sisters of the Heart of Jesus welcomed the worthy guests into the Matli Community according to their cultural tradition. Tea and refreshments were served at St. Joseph’s Parish House before proceeding to the Parish Church for Eucharistic Celebration.
His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis celebrated Mass and expressed his pleasure to be in the midst of this beautiful Community and above all a magnificent Culture. He thanked one and all present for the warm welcome. He also thanked the parish priest, the Assistant Parish Priest, Sisters of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus and Fr. Sabir Sadiq who translated the Homily. He further informed the people that as the representative of the Holy Father, he had brought his regards and blessings for them all. He said that the Holy Father prays for the community. He said that they were not alone as all share the same faith. They should feel stronger because where there is love there is Jesus. After Holy Mass the people expressed their love by presenting their gifts to His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis and Bishop Samson Shukardin. Bishop Samson Shukardin also thanked His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis for his availability and love for the community. The Holy Mass was followed by a social program with wonderful performances followed by a meal, Sr. Shumaila Robin, FCJ along with her teaching staff and students, prepared presented the variety program. Later His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis also visited St. Clare’s Convent and dispensary. He inquired about their ministries. The Sisters explained their services through different ministries like running a maternity clinic and dispensary for the poor and needy people. They were giving their services in St. Joseph primary School as teachers. Fr. Rey Tanalgo, the parish priest, informed the Nuncio about the Punjabi and Parkari communities. The Parkari communities mostly lived in different villages. It is believed that the first Parkari parish started as a Christian community from Matli.
The visit of the Nuncio was faith strengthening for the parishioners and a source of great encouragement to them. It was a blessing for all. His Grace Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, the Pope’s representative, had brought the message of Hope and Love for the Diocese of Hyderabad. Great thanks and God bless!
Fr. Lazar Aslam OFM Cap
Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad