Lahore: January 19, 2018. (Sunil John) The Inaugural prayer service for the Unity Octave 2018 was held at Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral, Cecil Chaudary Road, Lahore on January 18, 2018. A big gathering of fathers, sisters, catechists, seminarians and the faithful gathered at the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral. This prayer service was organized by National Commission for Interreligious Dialogue & Ecumenism (CBCP) Ecumenical Solidarity Committee Lahore and Council for Interfaith Dialogue-Pakistan.
His Grace Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw OFM of Lahore presided over this ceremony, whereas His Excellency Bishop Azad Marshall (Church of Pakistan, Diocese of Raiwind) Dr. Majid Abel (Moderator Presbyterian Church of Pakistan) and Major Saleem Yousaf were present in this Inaugural prayer service.
The introduction of the program was given by Fr. Inayat Bernard, Rector of Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral said 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.
The topic for this year’s weekly celebration is based on the Exodus: 15 : 6 "Your right hand, O LORD, is glorious in power. The opening prayer was led by Rev. Saleem Khokher. The first reading from Exodus: 15 : 13, 6 was read by Rev. Emmanuel Khokhar, , the responsorial psalm 133 was read by a Catechist Rafiq, while the Gospel was ready by Rev. I. B. Rocky from the Gospel of John 17: 20 23.
Bishop Azad Marshall in his homily said that we live in a world of uncertainty and hopelessness. But we are people of God who gives us hope in our life. The church unity is not only to have meetings and prayer services but to see things actually happening in a united way. We are different parts of the same body of Christ and he is our head. We may be different in our administration but we are followers of the same Lord Jesus Christ who is our binding force.
Dr. Majid Abel in his message said that by such programs we shall come close to each other and each ones way of life and practices of faith which will help us to grow in our unity and that will begin peace of heart and mind for the church leaders and the faithful. He wished that the unity will go on during this year as well. He ended by saying that in our day today life we need to invite one another to our churches to listen and benefit from the talents each one of us has.
Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw said in his presidential address that the present society is being intolerant, angry and going towards hatred against one another. In this situation our presence will bring peace and respect amongst us. He said that we have to be united to fight against the powers of evil and become the heralds of peace and this way we shall be called sons of God. He appreciated the efforts of the Ecumenical Solidarity Committee and the Council for interfaith Dialogue for their efforts to promote unity among Christian denominations which will be exceeded into different cities.
Rev. Amjad Niamat introduced the members of the Ecumenical Solidarity Committee. They are Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap (ESCL coordinator) and other members are Rev. Shahid Meraj, Rev. Emmanuel Khokhar, Rev. Amjad Niamt, Lt. Col Washington Daniel, Fr. Inayat Bernard, Rev. Saleem Khokhar and Rev. I.B. Rocky. He also thanked the Church heads and the audience.
Rev. Shahid Meraj the dean of the Church of Pakistan diocese of Lahore of Cathedral of the Resurrection read out the weekly program to be held at different churches of the mainline denominations and invited the faithful to participate in all united prayer services.
Fr. Francis Nadeem OFM Cap thanked all who participated in the unity service, he especially mentioned the contribution of Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw and the other committee members who are rendering their priceless services without bearing any titles or designations. He encouraged the Christian faithful to make an effort to be present for the prayer services at different places during the Unity Octave.
Among the other participants were Fr. Benjamin Joseph, Fr. Francis Sabir OFM Cap, Fr. Rafhan Fiaz, Fr. Zafar Tanveer, Fr. Wixen Paul, Sr. Angelina Ibrahim, Mr. Qamar Daniel and Sunil John.