Vatican condemns killing of leading Pakistani Catholic
The Vatican has strongly condemned the killing of the only Christian member of Pakistan’s federal cabinet, saying his death today shows that Pope Benedict XVI’s warnings about the danger to Christians in the region were fully justified.
Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said that the slaying was an act of ‘terrible gravity.’
Shahbaz Bhatti, (above) the minister for religious minorities in Pakistan, a Catholic, was shot dead by gunmen as he left his parent’s house in Islamabad yesterday. In pamphlets found at the scene of the shooting, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban said they targeted Mr Bhatti because of his Faith and because he allegedly belonged to a committee that was reviewing the blasphemy laws which carry the death penalty for insulting Islam.
Fr Lombardi noted that the slain government minister was a Catholic who had met with Pope Benedict XVI in September and stated his commitment to peaceful relations among the religious communities in mainly Muslim Pakistan. Fr Lombardi also expressed the urgent need to defend religious freedom and protect Christians from ‘violence and prosecution.’
A spokesman for the Pakistan President, Asif Ali Zardari, also condemned the shooting.
“This is a concerted campaign to slaughter every liberal, progressive and humanist voice in Pakistan,” he said. “The time has come for the federal government and provincial governments to speak out and to take a strong stand against these murderers to save the very essence of Pakistan.”
In January, Punjab province governor Salman Taseer was killed by a bodyguard after the politician opposed the blasphemy laws.