Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi to be elevated as Cardinal.
Pope Francis announced that he would be holding a meeting of the Church’s top council to appoint 14 new cardinals last month, including from Iraq, Pakistan, Madagascar and Japan which would reflect the universality of the Church as it “continues to proclaim God’s merciful love to all the men and women of the earth”. Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan is set to be appointed as a Cardinal by Pope Francis on June 29. The announcement was made during Pentecost celebrations after the Holy Mass by the Vatican head.
Archbishop Coutts will be the second Pakistani Archbishop to be honoured with the position after the death of Cardinal Joseph Cordeiro back in 1994.
He has also served as the National Director of Caritas Pakistan and is actively involved in inter-faith harmony with all religions. He is also the President of Pakistan Catholic Bishops Conference. A Doctor of Philosophy, he can speak several languages including English, Italian, German, French, Urdu, Punjabi and Sindhi.
Muslim politicians and activists in Pakistan have joined Christians in welcoming the news.
Archbishop Coutts recently formed the first-ever Diocesan Commission to promote Interfaith Harmony and said he often attends programmes, seminars and conferences to encourage people from different religions to live together peacefully. “Christians who live here should promote a culture of harmony,” he said.
The minority Christian community of Pakistan expressed its gratitude at this great news saying: “We are truly thrilled. It was long overdue. The Church of Pakistan was depressed because of many years of persecution,” Father Bonnie Mendes, former executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
Fr. Mendes regarded Archbishop Coutts as “the right man” who has been “a leader for 30 years.” He said, “He expresses himself in sensitive and considered ways, both in national and international meetings.”
Another said: “We are a religious minority, but our voice can be heard well in the universal Church. We thank the Holy Father because he takes care of the small Churches,” noting that Archbishop Coutts has served as Bishop in half the dioceses of the country and knows well his people and their concerns.
“This is like a breath of fresh air for us. We have beautiful feelings. The naming of a cardinal from an Islamic country is a matter of great pride.” He is a visionary person with knowledge and a good understanding of political matters.”
Also, another noted that with a new cardinal, issues of human rights in Pakistan will carry more weight and they will have a stronger voice.
Dr. Sadia Umer, a Muslim coordinator of the women’s empowerment initiative at United Religions Initiative (URI) Pakistan, a global grassroots interfaith network working for peace and justice, said that the news of Archbishop Coutts represents “a beautiful image” of the country. She noted that everyone looks at Pakistan with suspicion and accuses its people of being terrorists. “Instead Pope Francis is different. He is truly sincere in inter-religious dialogue and regards us all as human beings,” she said, adding, “For us, the new cardinal is a gift of Ramadan.”