Bishops may seek to declare slain Christian Pakistani minister a ‘martyr’
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 8, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Pakistan’s bishops are considering asking Rome to declare slain Pakistani minister Shahbaz Bhatti as a martyr for the faith.
“Bhatti is a man who gave his life for his crystalline faith in Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan, who made the proposal, in an interview with the Fides news agency. “It is up to us, the Bishops, to tell his story and experience to the Church in Rome, to call for official recognition of his martyrdom.”
“I am sure that the Church, in her own time, may proclaim him a martyr,” said Archbishop Anthony Rufin of Islamabad, who presided over Bhatti’s March 4 funeral, according to Fides.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of Pakistan will consider the proposal at their General Assembly from March 20-25. If he were declared a martyr, he could be beatified without the required miracle, though he would need one miracle that the Catholic Church could attribute to his intercession to be canonized, or made a “saint.”
Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian government minister, was gunned down by Muslim extremists last Wednesday for his vehement opposition to the nation’s stringent blasphemy law.
In a widely circulated video, he professed his faith in Christ and insisted he was willing to die to defend the freedom of Christians and other religious minorities in the country.
“I want to share that I believe in Jesus Christ, who has given his own life for us,” he told Al Jazeera. “I know what is the meaning of cross, and I am following of the cross, and I am ready to die for a cause.”
“I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights,” he continued. “So these threats and these warnings cannot change my opinion and principles. I prefer to die for my principle and for the justice of my community rather than to compromise on these threats.”
Pope Benedict XVI himself praised Bhatti for his “moving sacrifice” on Sunday. “I ask the Lord Jesus that the moving sacrifice of the life of the Pakistani minister, Shahbaz Bhatti, will awaken in people’s consciences courage and a commitment to safeguarding the religious freedom of all men and women and, in that way, promote their equal dignity,” he said in his Angelus address.
Controversy over the blasphemy law has been stirred by the recent conviction of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who was accused of blasphemy after defending her religious beliefs against the insults of several women in her majority-Muslim village. Her conviction has provoked an international outcry and has led to demands for the repeal or reform of the law.
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