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Tuesday 6 March 2012

Vatican visit highlighted Catholic passion for the remembrance of martyrs

 Hannah meets nuns for the first time.

 Vatican city a wealth of cutural diversity.

At the entrance to the Vatican University the main event of the day a Shahbaz Bhatti memorial.

Professor Mobeen Shahid lead organiser of the 2nd March memorial with Gennaro Sguro President of the Association International of Apostolic Catholics.

 The auditorium for the high powered memorial was a fine setting for this first Shahbaz Bhatti memorial in the Vatican.

Hannah could not help but get herself in lot's of pictures.

Tehmina Janjua, Ambassador of Pakistan to Italy, Albania, San Marino and Slovenia spoke of the great work of Shahbaz Bhatti, his ultimate sacrifice linking him to a great number of Pakistani Martyrs.  Tehima conformed that a New University in Islamabad is to be built that will be named after Shahbaz Bhatti in honour of him.

Minister Plenipotentiary Gabriele Checchia the Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan

Sara Fumagalli of the Humanitarian Padana Association spoke of Shahbaz Bhatti's contribution to Pakistani Christians and Christians across the globe.

 A 1 minutes silence was followed by a lament played seerenely on a harp.  This allowed contemplative reflection on the ultimate sacrifice of Shahbaz Bhatti and prayer for Paksitan.

During his closing address Professor Mobeen Shahid gave thanks to Wilson Chowdhry and the BPCA for their work towards the humanitarian cause in Pakistan.  

Gennaro Sguro spoke of an award that he gave to Shahbaz Bhatti that was now to be retained as an annual Humanitarian prize for other campaigners for justice.

Francesco Milano has written a biography on the life of Shahbaz Bhatti.  This captures the essence of his passion for justice and his willingness to be a martyr for oppressed minorities in Pakistan, the hard hitting emotional account has already stirred some controversy due to it's title "A Martyr of Blasphemy" 

A strong base of Pakistani Priests studying in the Vatican bodes signifies the leaps our global community has made in recent years.

To Wilson's right is John Sultan the leader of Associazione Pakistani Christiani in Italia 
(Pakistani Christians in Italy) 

We simply had to get a picture with Francesco Milano the author of the Shahbaz Bhatti biography!

After the high powered  memorial at the Vatican University a more sombre service was held at the Basilica of St Bartholomew on the Island (San Bartolomeo All'Isola), located on Tiber Island in one of the most beautiful settings in Rome.   In the case above is Shahbaz Bhatti's bible preserved to enable people to remember his great sacrifice.

Shahbaz Bhatti's bible is maintained in a shrine accompanied by shrines to many other martyrs.  This is quite fitting as the disciple Bartholomew himself was a Martyr and his bones are the primary relics of this titular minor Basilica.  

 Father Robert McCulloch with Hannah before the painting of global martyrs.

We were surprised by the vast number of Pakistani Christian Priests in the Vatican.

A main feature at the alter of this minor Basilica is a painting that depicts the martyrdom of 20th and 21st Century Christians.  The painting was finished in 2002 so does not include Shahbaz Bhatti, however it is an awesome spectacle and a strong reminder of the persecution faced by many simply for adherence to their chosen faith.

The service was attended by over 100 people and many of them held Pakistani origins. I felt privileged to attend such a wonderful event.  Our intention on this visit was to link with our Christian family in Italy to coordinate better our campaigns in future.  We have made a series of new contacts and hope to forge a stronger spirit of cohesion so that together one day, we can end the need for martyrdom in Pakistan.

 All smiles after a long but fruitful day.

Hannah before the relics of St Bartholomew.

The love amongst fellow Christians made this day really special.

When in Rome do as the Romans do.  Hannah and I visited the Colloseum, Forma Roma (Former Rome) and the Vatican (skipping the Queue thanks to Professor Mobeen's security pass).  The visit to this wonderful city highlighted the passion for Christ held by the community there.  Church buildings and Christian symbolism was ubiquitous.  Hannah was inspired and if the Fountain of Trevi is correct she will visit again one day.

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