St Francis Xavier Church, Sargodha

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St Francis Xavier Church in Sargodha, Pakistan is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Islamabad-Rawalpindi. The parish was managed by the Marists until 1989. A Presentation Convent School is also located in the parish.[1]

The parish reached a black milestone in its history when a Sargodha court sentenced a parishioner to death on a charge of insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Gul Masih is the first person to be sentenced to death since the law was amended in 1986 to stipulate the death penalty or life imprisonment for the use of derogatory remarks directed toward the Prophet Mohammad. The executive secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of Major Religious Superiors of Pakistan, said that an appeal is being filed with the High Court.[2] On January 9, 1993, Bishop John Joseph of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Faisalabad went to Sargodha District Jail to visit Gul Masih, but was denied access to the prisoner. Father Philip Joseph was parish priest of Sargodha parish in 1992.[3]

Father Patrick Sohail, the Parish priest of Sargodha in 1999, has been breaking new ground in both poetry and interreligious dialogue. Writing in his native Punjabi, he tries to bring about a transformation in people's thinking to improve interfaith relations. Like the poetry of Islamic mystics, Father Sohail's poetry calls for a radical break from the past and building new bridges for the future. The 30-year-old priest has formed a poetry group with others who share his vision.[4]

Two Catholic schools in Sargodha were denationalized in 1999. Most Church-founded schools were nationalized in 1972. Sindh province schools were returned, but this is the first time that schools were returned in Punjab, despite teachers and the government resisting the move.[5]

In 2000, Sister Nasreen Daniel and the Parish priest at that time, founded the Society Organized for Integral Life (SOIL), an NGO that offers legal aid and education for the poor, and skills training for women. Their program stresses formal education for children working in factories, hotels, gasoline stations, and other menial jobs.[6]

Maktaba-e-Anaveem Pakistan organized a program "Bible Study in Parish Communities" in the parish on November 16, 2002, in collaboration with the parish priest Fr. Sarfraz Simon. 120 students and teachers participated in this program.

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