By Ed West
Shahbaz Bhatti, the Pakistani politician murdered a year ago, might one day be declared a saint, according to Britain’s most senior cleric.
In a statement issued on the first anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, said he hoped that the Church would consider one day canonising Mr Bhatti, the Pakistani federal minister for minorities who was assassinated after numerous threats were made to his life.
Cardinal O’Brien said: “When that time comes I believe the Church should very seriously examine the question of whether Shahbaz Bhatti might be declared a saint.
“It would be wonderful to think that… Shahbaz Bhatti could become a patron for Justice and Peace in Pakistan or indeed Asia.”
He added his hope that El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Romero might one day become one of the patron saints of Central and South America as well.
Cardinal O’Brien’s comments were made in a statement to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, which is one of the organisers behind an event in central London honouring the Pakistani politician.
The peace rally and concert on March 10 will led by the British Pakistani Christian Association, and commemorates the anniversary of Mr Bhatti’s death. The organisers are calling for an end to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and the way they are abused. The rally wil begin outside the Pakistani High Commission at 11am.
Cardinal O’Brien said: “From what we know of his life and work Shahbaz Bhatti appears to have been a true man of God, who led a life of heroic virtue. His final interview reveals that he foresaw that he might die for what he believed in and was not afraid to join his Lord on the cross.
“His commitment to Christ suggests that here is an individual whose life and faith is worthy of examination [to see if he might be declared a saint] and it may be that in the fullness of time Shahbaz Bhatti is raised to the dignity of the altars.”
Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, Chairman of the International Affairs Dept of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, said: “I want to join with many others across the world in remembering and paying tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti. He was killed because he rejected hatred and violence and instead embraced the Gospel values of reconciliation and fidelity to truth. In his work as Minister for Minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti had a vision for a more tolerant society, formed by his own deep faith. His heroic witness serves as an inspiration and a challenge to us all.”