By John Newton
THE UK head of an international charity for persecuted Christians welcomed the promotion of a senior bishop in PakistanÂ who is recognised as a leading voice for better inter-faith relations.
Â Pope Benedict XVI elevated Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad to the Archdiocese of Karachi on 25th January, the feast of the conversion of St Paul.
Â Neville Kyrke-Smith, national director of Aid to the Church in Need (UK) praised the choice of Bishop Coutts for the see in the south of the country.
Â He said: â€œWe are delighted by the appointment of Bishop Coutts to the Archdiocese of Karachi.
Â â€œHis tireless work promoting justice and peace between Christians and Muslims will help him face the immense challenges of his new post.â€
Â Mr Kyrke-Smith went on to describe how the UK office of the charity has worked closely with the new Archbishop of Karachi.
Â He said: â€œAid to the Church in Need (UK) has had close connections with Bishop Coutts, who has been a great friend to the charity over the years, he came to open our new office in Scotland in 2009.
Â â€œLast year we worked with him on our campaign to bring pressure to the Pakistan government to review the blasphemy laws â€“ the misuse of which has caused so much suffering to our Christian brothers and sisters in the country, as well as members of other religious minorities.
Â â€œWe wish him every blessing and success as he moves to Karachi to be a shepherd and father to the Christian community there.â€
Â The 66-year-old bishop has been at the forefront of inter-faith dialogue with Muslims in a bid to bring stability to the small and frequently persecuted Christian community in Pakistan.
Â Under the countryâ€™s blasphemy laws members of religious minorities can face life imprisonment or death for insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed or desecrating the Qurâ€™an â€“ the laws have been used as a pretext for attacks on Christians and other groups.
Speaking to ACN early in 2011, Bishop Joseph Coutts said: â€œThe challenge becomes more difficult to be messengers of peace and love in a situation where there is so much prejudice, violence and hatred.
â€œYet this is the challenge we have to take up â€“ to love and expect nothing in return, to carry on without losing hope, to light at least one candle rather than curse the darkness.â€
Â Bishop Coutts is succeeding Evarist Pinto as Archbishop of Karachi. Archbishop Pinto is stepping down from active ministry, having reached the age for retirement (75) three years ago.
Â Bishop Coutts has previous connections with Karachi Diocese, having trained for the priesthood at Christ the King seminary in the early 1970s.
Â In June 1998, he was appointed Bishop of Faisalabad following the suicide of Bishop John Joseph â€“ the first native Pakistani to be appointed as a Bishop â€“ in protest against the blasphemy laws.
Â Bishop Coutts serves as president of the Catholic Bishopsâ€™ Conference of Pakistan, and is director of Caritas Pakistan, the national Catholic Churchâ€™s agency for social work, relief and development.
Directly under the Holy See, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need. ACN is a Catholic charity â€“ helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named â€œAn outstanding Apostle of Charityâ€, the organisation is now at work in about 130 countries throughout the world.
The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiativeâ€™s launch in 1979, Aid to the Church in Needâ€™s Childâ€™s Bible â€“ God Speaks to his Children has been translated into 162 languages and 48 million copies have been distributed all over the world.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACNâ€™s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow.
While ACN gives full permission for the media to freely make use of the charityâ€™s press releases, please acknowledge ACN as the source of stories when using the material.
For more information, contact John Pontifex, ACN UK Head of Press and Information 020 8661 5161 or John Newton, ACN Press Officer, 020 8661 5167.