All our Catholic priests face all kinds of challenges, all over the world. However, in Pakistan their work is often particularly difficult. Frequently, they not only have vast areas to minister to but at the same time have to live under constant social tensions. Most of them have been victims of threatening letters and telephone calls, and the threat of attacks by extremists is a real and ever-present factor. And the ordinary Catholic faithful are likewise exposed to constant discrimination and hostility. Most Christians in the country are poor and defenceless, consigned to the bottom rung of society. They not only look to their priests for pastoral and spiritual help but also often turn to them as their first and only source of help in every kind of need and problem. This year the coronavirus pandemic has come on top of everything else, making life still more difficult for these priests.
Initially, the diocese of Faisalabad was particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, though fortunately the situation has settled down somewhat since then. So now it will be possible for the priests of the diocese to go ahead with their annual retreat this November. These retreats are an opportunity for the priests to recharge their batteries, renew their sense of vocation and gain new strength for their difficult mission. Not only is there an opportunity for ongoing formation and spiritual accompaniment, but also a chance to share problems and ideas and enjoy fraternal solidarity with their brother priests. These meetings are a great source of strength not only for the priests themselves but ultimately also for all the Catholic faithful under their care.
However, these retreats involve considerable expense, for travel, board and lodging and for study materials. So ACN is planning to help towards the cost with a grant of 5000 Euros – roughly 90 Euros for each participant – so that the priests of the diocese can draw the strength they need from these retreats.