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Day of prayer, fasting in Pakistan as assassinated cabinet minister buried

Catholic World News - March 04, 2011

Catholics and other Christians in Pakistan are holding three days of public mourning in memory of Shahbaz Bhatti, the Catholic cabinet minister assassinated for his opposition to the nation’s blasphemy law. March 4, the day of his burial, is a special day of prayer and fasting, with bishops offering a memorial Mass in Islamabad and a funeral Mass in Faisalabad.

"Shahbaz Bhatti was a man who followed God's plan in his life," said Archbishop Anthony Rufin of Islamabad at the funeral for the slain Pakistani official.

Christians took to the streets in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi, Multan, and Quetta to protest the “absence and inaction” of the nation’s government, a local source told the Fides news agency. "He is a man who gave his life for the faith." The archbishop suggested that Bhatti might eventually be recognized as a martyr.

The funeral was held under tight security, and many Christians protested when they found themselves locked out of the church. Security officials closed the doors after Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani entered, and some mourners-- including a sister of the deceased-- were blocked from entering.

“If the country became a killing field of democratic and liberal people who exercise freedom of conscience and expression, it would legitimize the criminals trying to take over the country,” Catholic and Protestant leaders said in joint statement.

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