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3-SHAHBAZ-BHATTI

Cardinal suggests sainthood for Shahbaz Bhatti

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has called for the Church to consider declaring the murdered Pakistani politician a saint. Report and full statement from Cardinal O'Brien below

In a statement issued today–the first anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death–the president of the Bishops’ Conference of Scotland and Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, expressed his hope that the Church will look into the option of canonising Mr Bhatti.

Appointed federal minister for minorities, a cabinet position in Pakistan’s government, Mr Bhatti (above) took up the cause of religious freedom, speaking out against persecution and in so doing knowingly put his life in danger.

Noting that the canonisation process normally begins five years after the candidate’s death, Cardinal O’Brien (below) said: “When that time comes I believe the Church should very seriously examine the question of whether Shahbaz Bhatti might be declared a saint.

“It would be wonderful to think that… Shahbaz Bhatti could become a patron for Justice and Peace in Pakistan or indeed Asia.”

He added his hope that Latin America’s Archbishop Oscar Romero might one day become one of the patron saints of Central and South America as well.

Cardinal O’Brien’s call to examine Mr Bhatti’s worthiness for sainthood was made in a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which is one of the organisers behind an event in central London honouring the Pakistani politician.

The peace rally and concert next Saturday led by the British Pakistani Christian Association, commemorates the anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death and calls for changes to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the way they are enforced.

The blasphemy laws impose sentences including execution and life imprisonment for offences against Islam—and Mr Bhatti was murdered for speaking out after Asia Bibi became the first woman to be sentenced to death under these laws.

In his call to look into the possibility of the Catholic politician being canonised, Cardinal O’Brien described him as a man who had lived and died for his Christian faith.

“From what we know of his life and work Shahbaz Bhatti appears to have been a true man of God, who led a life of heroic virtue,” the cardinal said.

“His final interview reveals that he foresaw that he might die for what he believed in and was not afraid to join his Lord on the cross.

“His commitment to Christ suggests that here is an individual whose life and faith is worthy of examination [to see if he might be declared a saint] and it may be that in the fullness of time Shahbaz Bhatti is raised to the dignity of the altars.”

—The peace rally and concert, organised by the British Pakistani Christian Association with Aid to the Church in Need and others, starts at 11am with a gathering outside the Pakistan High Commission, Lowndes Square, London.

—Following the submission of a petition to 10 Downing Street (at 2pm) there will be a concert in Trafalgar Square starting at 3pm.

—For more information about the peace rally and concert visit http://www.acnuk.org/peacerally

Statement from Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, on the anniversary of the death of Shahbaz Bhatti in Pakistan

The process of canonisation calls for a period of five years to be observed after the death of the individual, in all but a few exceptional cases. However, when that time comes I believe the Church should very seriously examine the question of whether Shahbaz Bhatti might be declared a saint.

From what we know of his life and work Shahbaz Bhatti appears to have been a true man of God, who led a life of heroic virtue.

His final interview reveals that he foresaw that he might die for what he believed in and was not afraid to join his Lord on the cross.

His commitment to Christ suggests that here is an individual whose life and faith is worthy of examination and it may be that in the fullness of time Shahbaz Bhatti is raised to the dignity of the altars.

It would be wonderful to think that while Shahbaz Bhatti could become a patron for Justice and Peace in Pakistan or indeed Asia, so too one day Oscar Romero, who died in similar circumstances to his own, aware that he might die for what he believed and was not afraid to join his Lord on the cross, might one day be one of the patron saints of Central and South America.

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