MUMBAI, India – The newly appointed archbishop of Karachi says “good relations with the faiths” will be an important part of his mission as head of the Church in Pakistan’s largest city and financial capital.
Archbishop Benny Mario Travas, who has served as Bishop of Multan since 2015, was appointed to Karachi on Feb. 11, after the resignation of Cardinal Joseph Coutts was accepted by Pope Francis. Coutts had reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 last July.
“I accept this appointment with humility. Pope Francis has appointed me, and I will try my best to work and serve the Church and our people,” Travas told Crux.
“Karachi is a cosmopolitan city and there have been situations, but friendship with others of different faith, have lessened the intensity and gravity of the situation. Good relations with other faith is an important part of my mission,” he said.
The “situations” the archbishop alluded to are terrorism and other activities conducted by Islamic fundamentalists. Pakistan has suffered a series of attacks since the year 2000, although they have become less frequent in recent years. In addition, religious minorities suffer discrimination and persecution in the Sunni Muslim-majority country, with Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws often used to target Christians.
Travas told Crux that the “unity of the priests and the unity of the faithful” will also be an area of focus for his mission in Karachi.
“Education for poor classes of our faithful and education possibilities in poorer areas of Karachi archdiocese” will also be a focus, he said.
“In Catholic schools there is scholarship money reserved for poor Catholic students. I will try [to ensure] that our poor students in poor areas avail of the scholarship money for their education,” he added.
Archbishop Joseph Arshad of Islamabad-Rawalpindi told Crux that Travas’s appointment was “very good news” for the Church in Pakistan.
“Bishop Benny is called a priest of Karachi, so he is very familiar with the situation of the Archdiocese of Karachi,” he explained.
“Bishop Benny is young (54), energetic and will contribute to the growth of the archdiocese. As Bishop of Multan, Bishop Benny was close to the people, and will also be close to the people in the Karachi archdiocese,” Arshad said.