Retired Pakistani Bishop Andrew Francis of Multan, who was known as a tireless worker for poor and marginalized communities, died June 6 at the age of 70. Suffering from lung and kidney infection, he passed away in a Lahore hospital. After a card accident 3 years ago, the bishop had been confined to a wheelchair.
"This is very sad. He was a proactive and faithful leader who knew who to awaken the spiritual life of the churchgoers," Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad told UCANEWS. "He had cordial relations with civil administration and many Muslim officers used to visit him for blessings," Bishop Arshad said, adding, "We have lost a good shepherd."
The National Justice and Peace Commission (NCJP) of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops' Conference (CBCP), which Bishop Francis chaired from 2011 to 2015, issued a statement saying it “expresses its sincere condolences to the Catholic Church and to the community for this great loss. At the same time we pray for the soul of the deceased." "His determination for the promotion of interfaith harmony with strong engagement with Muslim clergy persons for peace building in the community was significantly remarkable," the NCJP said. It recalled that the late prelate “always contributed from a spiritual and financial point of view to rescue and rehabilitation operations during natural and man-made disasters. It is worth noting his determination to promote inter-religious harmony with a strong involvement of Islamic clergy to build peace within society."
Bishop Francis was national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, chairman of various human rights organizations, a member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the U.S. International Commission for English in the Liturgy and the Minorities Commission of the Pakistani government. The late bishop also founded St. Joseph Minor Seminary as well as eight schools in Multan Diocese and initiated pilgrimages during an annual festival at the National Marian Shrine in Mariamabad.
As a parish priest in Lahore, he survived an assassination attempt in 1996 but never bore a grudge against his aggressors.