The four mainline churches celebrate unity Octave 2017

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Lahore: January 24, 2017. (Fr. Inayat Bernard). The Holy Father Pope Francis received the cross from the Archbishop of Canterbury in response to the golden Papal ring which was presented to the Archbishop of Canterbury by Pope 50 years ago". Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM was talking to over 200 faithful gathered at Sacred Heart Cathedral in connection with the Unity Octave's inaugural prayer service.
Archbishop Sebastian continued that the Bishops were gathered in Rome and Canterbury. Two of them went from Pakistan and they were Church of Pakistan Bishop of Sialkot Alvin Samuel and He represented Catholic Church in Pakistan. He said that the unity among the mainline churches is developing year after year. He informed that ecumenical gathering that he had contacted the heads of other churches as well in connection of Christmas celebration with the doctors working in different hospitals. This way our working together has grown in the peaceful time. He said that we have been meeting in the times of crisis but it is good that we make it a point to come together for praying together for Christian unity.
He said that the understanding and cooperation has strengthened in the past years. He prayed that our unity may grow while respecting one another's administrative structure.
Bishop of Lahore Ifran Jamil of the Church of Pakistan was the main speaker. He talked about the topic of mutual understand and harmony* (Mail Milap aur Hum Ahangi)* that we have got the honor to be the ambassadors of Christ. With this honor he expects from each one of us to promote this peace and harmony among all nations of the world. He continued that our unity through prayer service has been visible and its impact is encouraging. He ended by expressing his desire to carry on working for church unity on all levels.
Divisional Commander of the Salvation Army Major Salamat Masih said that he feels as if he is standing among the holy people. He got this honor to express his views on the occasion of the Unity Octave organized by Ecumenical Solidarity Committee Lahore (ESCL). He said that we need to organize more programs to come together and strengthen this understanding among ourselves. He said that by coming together we do not challenge the administration the services done to our people.
Fr. Inayat Bernard said in his introduction that today we are gathered here at the invitation of the Ecumenical Solidarity Committee and Council for interfaith dialogue to participate in an inaugural prayer service during international unity Octave.
It was October 2012 that some of the representatives of the 4 main line churches met to organize unity week 2013. The unity Octave was going on regularly in the past years but it was stopped for some years. So we re-organized it and have had four unity Octaves in 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 and now is the fifth unity week.
During the year we organize Alleluia Conference on the 2nd Saturday after Easter Sunday. The first of its kind was organized at St. Joseph Church Lahore Cantt. in 2013 and the second one was at the Cathedral of the Resurrection in 2014 and the third was conducted at the Salvation Army Headquarters and the fourth was at the Central Cathedral Warris Road. The 2017 Aleeluia Conference will be held on the 29th April. The place will be announced later on.
Besides that we agreed to fix the date 14th December for Ecumenical Christmas Carol .The first program was at the Praying Hand Cathedral Waris Road in 2012, the second was at St. Joseph Church Lahore Cantt. in 2013 the third in 2014 was at the Salvation Army headquarters and the fourth one was at St. Mary’s Church Gulberg, Lahore. The fifth program took place in 2016 at St. Francis Church Kot Lakhpat Lahore.
The topic for this years’weekly celebration is Mutal understand and harmony *Mail Milap and Hum Ahangai.*
Readings were done by Sr. Tasneem Rehmat FTL and Capuchin seminarian Sheraz Tariq while the Gospel was read by Church of Pakistan diocese of Raiwind 's pastor Rev. Salim Khokhar. Prayers of the faithful were said by different worshippers of four denominations concluded by Fr. Zafar Tanveer. Church of Pakistan coadjutor Bishop Azad Marshal of Raiwind was present but could not express his views due to soar throat.
Dean of the Cathedral of Resurrection Rev. Shahid P.Mairaj introduced the members of the ESCL and informed the faithful for weekday unity octave programs.
Rector of the Cathedral Fr. Jahanzeb Iqbal welcomed the religious leaders and the faithful. Major Saleem Yousaf of the Salvation Army introduced the speaker while the choir of St. Mary's Seminary sung the hymns during prayer service.
At the end the coordinator of ESCL Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap said that he thanks all the mainline churches' heads and their faithful for inaugural prayer service during unity Octave 2017.
He said that from last 5 years we have not have president or secretary. Therefore we have been bound in love till date and continue to work together. He said that wherever we have the meeting the host presides the meeting and importance is given to each and every church representative. He prayed and expected that the unity among mainline churches will further strengthen.

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"Trial of Pakistani Christian Nation" By Nazir S Bhatti

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