The four mainline churches celebrate unity Octave 2017: An exclusive report

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Lahore: February 11, 2017. (Fr. Inayat Bernard). January 18, 2017: "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 the is 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, 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.
Jesus Christ inspire us to make our unity visible
"Though we are different in our administration but Jesus has ordered us to go to the world including our country Pakistan to evangelize his kingdom". Rev. Saleem Khokhar of the Church of Pakistan diocese of Raiwind diocese was preaching to some 60 faithful in Shalome Presbyterian Church. The 2nd day's unity prayer service was presided by Rev. Dr. Khalid Hadayat and the host was moderator of Lahore presbytery Rev. Amjad Niamat.
The preacher of the evening Rev. Saleem Khokhar continued that we are different parts of the one same body of which Jesus Christ is the head. He expects from each one of us to share our talents and responsibilities in order to strengthen his body. Our unity can only be visible when we promote this mail milap and grow in our day today harmony. If we encourage one another for our effective evangelization then out unity will be tangible.
The local elder Akhtar Masih was the facilitator who invited the speaker and the faithful who led in the singing the religious hymns. The same prayers of the faithful were recited everywhere during unity octave prayer services read by different faithful. These prayers of the faithful included prayer for the Holy Father Pope Francis, the Heads of mainline churches I Pakistan, the representatives of the ESCL, and harmony and with stability of Pakistan.
Rev. Saleem Khokhar said that we are asked to come out of our shells and become the ambassadors of his peace. This mission is entrusted to each one of us.
Salvation Army Divisional Commander of Lahore Major Salamat Masih said the final prayer and Rev. Dr. Khalid Hadayat sent the faithful with the benediction of the Lord.
The first reading from Psalms 106:1-6 was read by Rev. I. B. Rocky and the 2nd reading from 2 Cor.5:18-21 was read by Salvation Army Major Saleem Yousaf while Capuchin student Bro. Imran Saleem from St. Francis Friary read the gospel from Matt.5:23-26. Light refreshment was served to the faithful after the
Prayer service in the chapel.
" To have belief in Christ is to aspire for harmony". Fr. Pascal Paulus OP, the Vice Provincial of the Dominican Fathers in Pakistan, was talking to some 100 faithful at the church of Pakistan chapel called St. Oswald, Mughalpura, Lahore. He said that it was his first time to come to the Anglican Church for unity octave prayer service for which he felt being honored.
Fr. Pascal continued that I Cor 12:27 says that though we are many but form one body of Christ. He said we are different in our administration but have the same faith in the risen Lord. He referred to the saying of Jesus that if you follow my commandments and love one another through this the people will know that you are my disciples.
He recited a story of a sparrow who was with her male and asked him to go down the tree and seek help from an human being. The man caught the bird and slaughters and ate it up. The sparrow went to the king for justice and order was given to kill the man to compensate but the sparrow said no he may not be killed because we trusted him since he was wearing a garb of a holy man but his act was not holy . So instead of killing him the dress should be removed so that others can see him as he really is.
He ended by saying that we have not to be hypocrites but be real to start the change from our families, homes, cities, country and the entire word.
Church of Pakistan Dean of the Cathedral of Lahore diocese Rev. Shahid P. Mairaj said that Jesus Christ is with us and we are united in faith in him. How can we love God, he said , unless we show our love and concern towards other human beings. He showed his satisfaction that like the last four years our ecumenical unity will grow in future as well.
Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap, the coordinator of ESCL, thanked the representatives of four mainline church ,the local pastor Rev. Azeem David, the choir master and his choir, speaker of the evening Fr. Pascal Paulus OP. He said that we are sowing the seed of unity among churches and the present and next generation will reap the harvest.
The first reading was read by Mr, Sharif while the Gospel was read by Gulbaz Saleem..
All the guests of four mainline churches were garlanded by the local faithful. Good preparation was made by preparing flexes posted in front of the church.
Harmony to start form the family
“The harmony has to start with the family and then its effects will be observed in the society and the country." Salvation Army Divisional Commander Major Salamat Masih was talking to some 150 faithful gathered for 2nd last day of the unity Octave at St.Esther Memorial church of the church of Pakistan diocese of Raiwind.
He told a short event that the relatives of the husband came and he asked his wife to make something and she made her face but did not prepare proper food. After some days the relatives of the wife visited the house and she knew how she had treated her in laws. So she asked her husband to bring something to eat and he brought the rickshaw (taxi) that they could go back to their homes without eating. So Major concluded that this type of attitude does not help the family life but the love, harmony and mail milap helps to the family and this has to start from the level of the family.
Jesus Christ is our model of harmony and he expects from each one of us to be united with him and bear fruit through our words and actions. We are asked to start this process of harmony from our own selves and families at large. He wished that this unity will grow among our churches to be the real witness for the other nations.
This was the only church this year where the representatives of the four mainline denominations were present. In the beginning the guests were garlanded with malas along with the wives of the pastors.
At the end Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap repeated the message of Major Salamat Masih of the love to be promoted at the family level among husband and wife and the children. He thanked the local pastor Rev. Saleem Khokhar, church choir and all faithful and expected for more depth in the unity among churches.
Ms. Razia read the first reading from PS,101:1-6,while the second reading was read by Mrs. Elysa Saleem from 2 Cor 5:21-27. Rev. Amjad Niamat the moderator of Lahore presbytery read the Gospel from Matt.5:23-26.
Unity Octave not a project but a mission
“The unity octave is not a project but a mission to be carried out”. Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap the coordinator of Ecumenical Solidarity Committee Lahore (ESCL) was talking during the closing prayer service in connection with the Unity Octave celebrated from 18th January till 25th January at the Cathedral of the Resurrection. He told the 150 interdenominational worshippers that we do not have president, secretary or even treasure. Everyone of us contributes to the activities which take place at each one’s place. From October 2012 we have successfully carried out three programs during the year and they are Unity Octave, the Alleluia Conference on the second Saturday after Easter and 14th December as the Ecumenical Christmas Carol.
The main speaker Fr. William Basharat OFM Cap while giving the history of the unity prayer week he said that today we are celebrating three events; one is the closing of the unity octave, the second one is the conversion of St. Paul and the third is the 130 anniversary of the Cathedral of the Resurrection Lahore. He said that the mutual understanding and harmony are very important for the relationships to go on among different denominations in Pakistan.
He prayed for the faithful who have been present from last 130 years in the religious services conducted here for weddings, funerals, baptisms and different sacraments. He also prayed for the benefactors and those who contributed in several manners for the strength of faith of Christians.
Fr. William informed that the Cross of St. Thomas found in Texila in 1935 is here installed in this cathedral which shows that the Christianity has been from the first centaury and we have the spiritual pride due to this fact that St. Thomas passed through our land.
He ended by saying that Pope Francis expects from each one of us to be united in the Lord .It is the need to pray and be attentive to the fact that we need to be always resurrected in our faith.
Fr. James Chanan OP, who was presiding the prayer service in absence of Bishop Irfan Jamil of Lahore, said that the place where St. Paul was beheaded in Rome has got three fountains that is why it is called Tri Fontane. He appreciated lighting of the main candle while holding the candles in the hands of the representatives of four main line churches. He said that we have to keep this light burning which is of our faith. He ended by saying that as the Cathedral is strong so our faith needs to be strong as well.
The host Rev. Shahid P. Mairaj thanked all the members of the ESCL, the choir and all the faithful who participated and those who donated the three storied cake of the 130 anniversary of the Cathedral.
The ESCL representatives were Major Salamat Masih, divisional commander Salvation Army with his Mrs and Major Saleem Yousaf with his Mrs. Rev. Salim Khokhar with his Mrs., Rev. Emmanuel Khokhar with his Mrs., Rev. I. B. Rocky, Fr. Francis Nadeem coordinator ESCL and Fr. Inayat Bernard who said prayers and expressed their views.

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