LAHORE – The famous Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lahore issued a public apology on Monday after Pakistani Christians across the world took aim at the clergy for allowing Maryam Nawaz to use the pulpit for making a political speech last week.
The apology came days after Maryam, daughter of former premier Nawaz Sharif along with Senator Kamran Michael, Punjab Minister for Minorities Affairs Khalil Tahir Sindhu and Bishop of Raiwind Rt Reverend Azad Marshall arrived at the cathedral.
At that time, it was believed that Maryam’s visit was aimed at special prayers for her mother Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, who is undergoing treatment in London after being diagnosed with lymphoma.
During the special service, Maryam Nawaz, who is quite active after the disqualification of his father Nawaz Sharif, was also allowed to address the audience from the pulpit, an elevated platform from which the sermon is delivered.
Maryam Nawaz after having acknowledged the role of the Christian community in the development of Pakistan seized the opportunity to muster support for the next bye-elections in Lahore’s NA-120 constituency, scheduled to be conducted on September 17.
She also slammed her father’s disqualification by the Supreme Court in Panama Papers case and added that the country needed a change in the judicial system rather than the change of prime ministers.
The former premier’s daughter urged the congregants to cast votes in favor of PML-N during upcoming elections and claimed that it was ex- PM Nawaz Sharif’s efforts that curbed attacks at churches and worship places of other religious communities.
It is still not disclosed whether she was told by management of Church to avoid making a political speech or not but the political angling of speech triggered uproar in the community and many Christians took to social media platforms to protest against the sacrilege of the pulpit.
The burgeoning outcry forced the Archbishop of Lahore to issue a public apology.
Father Francis Gulzar, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Lahore publicized the official statement which offered public apology and released a video in this regard.
The statement also clarifies Archbishop Sebastian Shaw’s stance over the politico-religious feud.
According to the statement, Shaw was informed two days prior to the event by Federal Minister Kamran Michael, Provincial Minister Tahir Khalil Sandhu and MPA Shakeel Marcus that Maryam wished to visit the church to offer prayer for her ailing mother.
‘It was decided unanimously that Mst. Maryam Nawaz will only be speaking about herself, her father, mother and rest of the family’s connection with Christian schools. However, after expressing thankfulness, her address took political visage’ the statement said.
‘Maryam Nawaz’s political address from Sacred Heart Cathedral has caused many grievances to the public; hurting their sentiments. Therefore, Honorable Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw and church administration offers public apology’ the statement added.
It was also announced that the church will not shut its doors on anyone, however, it will not offer space for political purposes.