Ireland has decided not to grant visas to thousands of Pakistani Christians planning to travel to the country for the upcoming 9th World Meeting of Families of the Catholic Church, UCANEWS.com has reported.
The consulates in Karachi and Islamabad have turned down applications by families for visa to attend the World Meeting of Families (WMF) in Dublin from 21 to 26 August. Pope Francis is expected to join the last two days of the meeting.
10,000 visa applications
About 10,000 families from around Pakistan had applied; 600 from the Archdiocese of Karachi alone. All requests were rejected, including by clergymen.
Father Anthony Abraz, parish priest at the Good Shepherd church in Karachi was denied a visa because he had not participated in such events in the past. The priest said that families were denied visas because the visa officer found “insufficient evidence of strong family, social, economic or other obligations to return” home the event.
The Irish consulate in Karachi said that it analyzed the reasons for going to Ireland and other criteria, including family circumstances, financial situation, employment details, travel reasons and accommodation in Ireland.
However, according to Father Abraz "all applications should have been assessed on a case-by-case basis”, noting that two groups of lay people received identical letters.
Church authorities had screened potential pilgrims, and Cardinal Joseph Coutts of Karachi only granted letters of recommendation to those who were not interested in seeking asylum.
Many Catholics are outraged at how the whole issue was handled.
Samuel Sarfraz, who works at a pharmaceutical company in Multan (Punjab), sold a residential plot to raise 300,000 rupees ($420) for non-refundable visa applications and registration fees for his family of three children to attend the Dublin World Meeting of Families.
World Meeting of Families
The World Meeting of Families is an international event that takes place every 3 years in a venue chosen by the Pope and with the presence of the Pope .
St. Pope John Paul II began the tradition in 1994, asking the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Family to establish an international gathering of prayer, catechesis and celebration to help strengthen the bonds between families and bear witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to society. The meeting fosters the process of accompaniment of families in their mission and encourages gestures of solidarity for families in difficulties. The first WMF was held in Rome in 1994.
At the end of the last WMF in Philadelphia, USA, in 2015, Pope Francis decided that the 9th WMF would be in Dublin on the theme, “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World.”
The theme is inspired by Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia” (The Joy of Love), which was the fruit of a 2-part synod of bishops on the family in 2014-2015. (Source: UCAN)