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May 30, 2018

Archbishop Coutts ‘really touched by highly positive attitude of majority community’


May 30, 2018

Archbishop Joseph Coutts

As I was ushered into his office, I could feel the ambience of spirituality, with a crucifix adorning a wall and verses from the scriptures and paintings of biblical scenes.

As we got down to talking, Archbishop Joseph Coutts replied to all the questions in a very articulate, erudite manner, a testimony to his intellectual prowess and magnanimity. We were talking in the context of his recent selection to the College of Cardinals at the Vatican from Pakistan.

This, certainly, apart from being a highly commendable personal achievement, is also a signal honour for Pakistan, as he is just the second Bishop from Pakistan to be selected to that highly prestigious slot, the first one being Archbishop Joseph Cordeiro back in 1973.

This assumes all the more importance as it comes at a juncture when Pakistan is getting rather unenviable press globally as regards the lot of the minorities. However, his view of the whole thing is one of utter humility and modesty.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah congratulates presents a flower bouquet to Archbishop of Karachi Mr. Joseph Coutts on his appointment as cardinal by Pope Francis during his visit.

When asked how he felt about this achievement, he replied: “I feel very grateful to God and pray that he may grant me the strength to live up to the responsibility. I feel really humbled.” He was really touched by the highly positive attitude of the majority community, especially those who profusely congratulated him on this achievement, particularly Sindh’s chief minister and the mainstream religious parties, notably the Jamaat-e-Islami. “I was overwhelmed by the response of the members of the majority community and the government functionaries.”

Asked about the selection of Cardinals from the Third World countries, he said it was an attempt to stress the universality of the church and to prove the universality of mankind. “That’s why we have cardinals being selected from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Myanmar and other countries.”

Asked about the state of inter-faith harmony, he had a very positive outlook and narrated an incident when some acrimony had arisen between the two communities in Pakistan on account of the remarks by Pope Benedict that had been misconstrued.

However, he said, the tension was defused after negotiations, and there was a large number of the majority community who came over to St Patrick’s Cathedral and formed a human chain, holding placards with slogans of reconciliation.

He said that at that time there was a worship service going on, and worshippers from the Christian community and the majority community mingled and sang ‘Iss Parcham ke Saye Talay Hum Aik Hain’ in unison, and a situation that could have turned explosive ended harmoniously.

“If we see cases of inter-faith friction occasionally, it is on account of a lack of understanding of each other’s viewpoints,” said Archbishop Coutts. “We’ve got to live together, respect each other, learn to relate to each other in a spirit of harmony and mutual acceptance.”

He had special words of praise for the personages of the late Maulana Abdus Sattar Edhi and Dr Adib Rizvi, saying that the spirit of philanthropy seen in Karachi was remarkable. He also commended I Am Karachi and other such movements that are working to foster civic harmony and to bring an end to the savage bickering that we witness here.

He mentioned in passing that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese was running 56 schools in the city, and at many schools in the low-income areas, education was subsidised and children were admitted without any consideration of caste, colour or creed.

Archbishop Coutts, who hails from Goa, said he was born in Amritsar where his father was an executive with the prestigious Imperial Chemical Industries, the noted UK-based multinational. However, during his infancy, his father was transferred to Lahore, where he grew up and went to St Anthony’s High School, an elite educational institution of the city.

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