Bishop with Indian roots to head Karachi diocese *‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’

January 27, 2012 by  
Filed under Church, Goa, India, newsletter-india

Old Goa ChurchGoa, January 27, 2012: Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday appointed Bishop Joseph Coutts of Faisalabad, Pakistan, as archbishop of Karachi- Pakistan. Archbishop Coutts ( 66), who traces his roots to Ranoi- Aldona, succeeds Archbishop Evarist Pinto, who has resigned from pastoral care of the archdiocese having reached the age limit.

Coincidentally, Archbishop Pinto also traces his roots to Goa. Hailing from Olaulim- Pomburpa, Archbishop Pinto grew up at his mother’s place in Corjuem, Aldona, Goa. Archbishop Coutts also happens to be the cousin of Bishop Anil Couto of Jullundur ( India).

Karachi — the largest city, main seaport and the main financial centre of Pakistan — has 1.5 lakh catholics ( 40 priests and 185 religious) within a population of 1.55 crore. There are as many as six prelates in the Catholic Church who trace their links to Aldona.

They are Auxiliary Bishop ( retired) Ferdinand Fonseca of Bombay, Bishop ( retired) Anthony Lobo of Islamabad ( Pakistan), Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi ( Pakistan), Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman, Archbishop ( retired) Evarist Pinto of Karachi Archdiocese and Bishop Anil Couto of Jullundur ( India).

– alwin fernandes

Multiethnic Karachi, a challenge for Mgr Coutts in his new mission

Archbishop Joseph CouttsPakistan, January 27, 2012: The outgoing bishop of Faisalabad is back to the city where he did his seminary studies and was first priest. On Wednesday, Benedict XVI named him archbishop of Pakistan’s southern metropolis. Speaking about his new posting, the prelate describes the demographic explosion and bursts of violence in this “multiethnic and multicultural” city.

“Karachi was a fairly peaceful city,” said Mgr Joseph Coutts as he remembered it from the time when he attended the local seminary to become a priest. It was “not subject to sporadic bursts of violence and terrorism, as it is now,” the newly appointed bishop added as he described the southern Pakistani metropolis, which is also the capital of Sindh province. Speaking to AsiaNews about the city, which he knows very well, he stressed its multiethnic and multicultural character, which will be the main challenges of his new pastoral posting. On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI appointed him as the new archbishop of Karachi, in lieu of Mgr Evarist Pinto, in place since 2002, who has reached the normal age limit.

The 66-year-old Mgr Coutts was born on 21 July 1945 in Amritsar, British India. Since 1998, he headed the Diocese of Faisalabad, where he took the placed of Mgr John Joseph who killed himself in protest against the country’s blasphemy law.

Following studies at Karachi’s Christ the King Seminary, he was ordained priest on 9 January 1971 in Lahore. After that, he completed ecclesiastical studies in Rome from 1973 to 1976, and then became professor of philosophy and Sociology at Christ the King Seminary in Karachi from 1976 to 1980.

Appointed rector of St. Mary’s Minor Seminary in Lahore, he was later elected as the Vicar General of Diocese of Lahore where he served from 1986 to 1988. On 5 May of that year, he was appointed bishop of Hyderabad. In this diocese, he defended the rights of landless farmers and was instrumental in creating the new Vicariate Apostolic of Quetta. After ten years of service in Hyderabad, he was transferred to the Diocese of Faisalabad on 27 June 1998.

Thus, Mgr Coutts performed his episcopacy in three of Pakistan’s provinces, Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. As prelate, he opened avenues of dialogue with leading Muslim clerics and scholars in Faisalabad, and helped build bridges among the different communities. For his efforts, he was honoured in 2007 with the Shalom Prize by the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt in Germany for his commitment to peace and interfaith harmony in Pakistan. At present, he serves as president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Pakistan and head of Caritas Pakistan.

“I am not a total stranger to Karachi,” the new archbishop of Karachi told AsiaNews. “I did my philosophy and theology studies there and then taught at the Major Seminary for four years while being pastorally engaged in a number of parishes.” “But that was many years ago. Karachi was a fairly peaceful city then, not subject to sporadic bursts of violence and terrorism, as it is now. The population too has exploded largely because of refugees who have settled” in Pakistan’s southern metropolis.

“Karachi is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural megacity of around 15 million people,” he noted, that “grew in size and importance after the creation of Pakistan in 1947.” By contrast, “Faisalabad with about 3 million people is in the heart of the Punjab”, which “In spite of its size, [. . .] still has a rural flavour with a homogeneous population. The Christians in the diocese live mainly in the surrounding small towns and villages. The way of living and problems of citizens in both the cities are dissimilar. The climate too is very different as the two cities are about 1,400 kilometres apart, one inland the other on the Arabian Sea coast.”

‘Police tortured me, I couldn’t recognise myself’

Arun Ferreira
Arun Ferreira

Maharashtra, January 12, 2012: Labelling himself as a “political prisoner”, Arun Ferreira said just because he believed in the Leftist ideology he was branded as a ‘naxal’ and put in prison. Speaking at a press conference at the Press Club on Wednesday, Ferreira said the state government had become intolerant and was out to curb any movement it did not approve of.

“Be it the movement against the Jaitapur nuclear plant, the one against POSCO, or Anna Hazare’s movement, the government immediately says there are naxals or maoist involved,” he said.

Recalling his days in the Nagpur jail, Ferreira claimed that because of the torture he underwent in the police custody, he could not recognise his own photograph published in the newspapers, “Nowadays the police have perfected the techniques of torture to ensure that no marks are left behind,” he alleged.

He added, “One can find a good place to sleep [in jail] if he has money or else he has to sleep near the toilet. The prison manuals are outdated. The rules of British days are still applicable, which means the jail authorities run the place the way they want to.”

Coming down on the police, Ferreira said he was not the first one to be re-arrested after being acquitted by courts. He termed the tactics of the police as their “modus operandi”.

“Even the principal district judge at Gadchiroli has come down on these methods of the police,” he said, adding that his family and friends in Mumbai had managed to put pressure on the government and the police for his release.

Ferreira, along with naxal leader Arun Satya Reddy alias Murli, was arrested in 2007 for an alleged attempt to hold a secret meeting at Dikshabhoomi in Nagpur.
Though released in September last year, he was re-arrested by the police on charge of involvement in the Jafargarh police-naxal encounter case in Gadchiroli.

– hindustantimes

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