Yesterday I attended the installation of Archbishop Sebastian Shaw. It was a significant event for the Archdiocese, for the church in Pakistan, and for the whole of Pakistan. Six of the seven Catholic Bishops in Pakistan attended (tragically, the Bishop of Multan was in a car accident last year and is paralysed and in a wheel chair), as well as leaders of the other churches. Many priests of the Archdiocese and from other dioceses attended. There were sisters, brothers, and other lay people in big numbers from around the diocese. For me it was a wonderful opportunity to meet many people.
The ceremony was held in a packed cathedral. The Archbishop had chosen the theme “I know my sheep and mine know me”. I was both amused and thought it highly appropriate that in the offertory procession a man presented a fully-grown sheep in his arms! A sister afterwards told me it was a goat. I only had a glimpse from a distance but thought it was a sheep. Either she or I will be of no use on the Last Judgement!
I was able to meet many priests from near and far. I was struck by two points. During my years in Pakistan, there were quite a number of overseas missionaries participating in diocesan life and work. Now, they are very few. Previously, they would have formed a third or more of the presbyterate. Now out of a hundred or more I could only count just over half a dozen. The church has now become localised, which is a great thing. The second thing of note, in contrast to a similar event in Australia, is that nearly all of the priests are black-haired. In Australia, we are a grey/white-haired ageing group. In Pakistan, the clergy are a younger generation finding their way and expressing their identity. No doubt, mistakes are made, as do we all, but it is wonderful to see a local church becoming responsible.
During his speech of thanks, the new Archbishop spoke of “new beginnings”. He thanked all who attended, including representatives from other churches, priests and sisters, friends, family, the faithful from near and far. He also mentioned me by name, “Fr Pat, who has come from Australia”, which was a great honour.
After the Mass, a meal was served for all those in attendance. Priests and religious were catered to in the grounds of an adjacent school. Lunch boxes were provided for all others.
In the afternoon there was a civic reception to welcome the new Archbishop. It was attended by the Speaker of the National Assembly, members of the Provincial Assembly and the leaders of other churches. There was also an interfaith dimension, with representative Muslim clergy and leaders from the Sikh and Hindu communities. Presentations of gifts were made to the new Archbishop. There were formal speeches. The formalities were interspersed with songs representative of each of the four provinces as well as songs of of national unity emphasising our common citizenship. There was even a cake-cutting! Afterwards, afternoon tea was served to all.
The event was very well organised. The Mass went from 10.30 am to about 1.00 pm, followed by meeting & greeting and the meal. The civic reception was held in the adjacent school from 3.30 pm. The day concluded about 6.00 pm. I came home tired but delighted to have met so many friends and to have been part of this significant event in the life of the Archdiocese of Lahore.