Pakistan, 2016 Archbishop Sebastian Shaw during his visit to Sheikh Zaid Hospital and Jinnah Hospital. He and his team visited both Christian and Muslim victims of the bomb blast in Pakistan over Easter . More than 300 people were injured and 72 people were killed by during the attack on Easter Sunday in Lahore.

Archibishop Shaw brings Pope’s message to bombing victims in hospital

Victims of the Easter Sunday Pakistan bomb blast recovering in hospital have received a personal message of sympathy from the Pope.  Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore described how he was going from bed to bed visiting the wounded when he received a call on his mobile phone from Vatican officials saying that they had received a message from Pope Francis who was anxious to send a greeting to those wounded and grieving. The Pope’s message echoed Francis’ comments on Easter Monday (28th March) in Rome where he told the crowds of his “closeness to those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime”.

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity for persecuted and other suffering Christians, Archbishop Shaw spoke of his “delight” to receive the phone call about the Pope’s message, which was conveyed by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin. Archbishop Shaw said: “There were so many wounded and others we wanted to see and I was getting very tired. Then I suddenly got this phone call from the nunciature [Vatican diplomatic office] in Islamabad [the Pakistan capital]. I was told that the Secretary of State had phoned the nunciature to say that the Holy Father is praying for the people who are suffering and that he personally wanted to send them his good wishes.”

He added “I have to say it was a very timely call. There were more than 100 people I was visiting and they were so pleased to know that the Pope had them in mind – not just the Christians but the Muslims too. Many Muslims were also victims of the blast.”

Reflecting on his visits to the wounded in Lahore’s Sheikh Zaid and Jinnah Hospitals, Archbishop Shaw said: “It was very, very difficult to console them. We had no words to offer them.”

He described one family including a woman who had lost her husband and a child in the blast and whose other children, aged four and six, had been badly injured. Archbishop Shaw said: “The woman herself was injured and she was not able to take part in the funerals of her husband and child.”

The archbishop, a Franciscan, also stated: “One mother lost her two children and husband.“ She was a guest and came to Lahore from Sanghar [in Sindh, the neighbouring province to Punjab, whose capital is Lahore].” “The mother will go back to her home without her husband and children. [There are] no words to console her.”

He added: “In this depressing and traumatic situation we are still preaching and consoling our faithful with the words of Jesus after the Resurrection: ‘Peace be with you.’”

He said that 20 funerals had taken place in the Lahore archdiocese on Monday (28th March). The funeral of two siblings, Sulan Arif, 15, and her 14-year-old sister, Arooj, took place on Wednesday  (30th March) at Lahore’s Sacred Heart Cathedral, with Archbishop Shaw presiding.

The archbishop had asked ACN to prepare a consolation message to be read out at this and other funerals. The message, sent by ACN’s UK national office in Sutton, Surrey,pledges prayers and states: “Please be assured of the compassion and love of your friends from ACN all around the world, not least here in the UK.

“May the message ring out in your hearts: ‘You are not alone; we are here from countries all over the world to ensure that you will never be left to suffer alone.’

“We mourn with you; we share in your loss.”

Thanking ACN for this and other messages, Archbishop Shaw stated: “We need your prayers so that we may continue the mission our risen Lord Jesus had given us.”

Pakistan is a priority country for Aid to the Church in Need, which supports victims of persecution as well as Mass stipends for priests, support for Sisters, training for seminarians, catechesis and other Christian education including Child’s Bibles, Catholic media and evangelisation work and construction of churches.

John Pontifax