Country’s largest Catholic church opens in Karachi’s Akhtar Colony

Published: November 16, 2011

The sanctuary at the far end of the church is off-limits for visitors. PHOTOS: NEFER SEHGAL/ EXPRESS

A stole, holy water and information about a couple to be wed are laid out precisely before the next wedding ceremony - the fourth in five days since the church opened. 
PHOTOS: NEFER SEHGAL/ EXPRESS
The sanctuary at the far end of the church is off-limits for visitors.
PHOTOS: NEFER SEHGAL/ EXPRESS
The hall has been built with particular attention to lighting and acoustics.The choir can be heard across the hall without any amplification. PHOTOS: NEFER SEHGAL/ EXPRESS

KARACHI: It was among the dusty, narrow streets of Akhtar Colony, tucked away among haphazard residential flats, that architect Kausar Ali was commissioned to design the country’s biggest Catholic church.

The new, improved and much expanded Saint Peter’s Church opened its doors for services on November 9 and requests for wedding ceremonies and other services have flooded in. The brown-brick building sprawls over 21,000 square feet and can house 5,000 worshippers at a time. Overshooting St Patrick’s Cathedral’s capacity of 2,000 people, St Peter’s Church is now the largest Catholic church in Pakistan.

Its arched hall is divided into two floors. It has been meticulously carved into a stable structure even though the land it stands on is angled. It stretches up to 24 metres high and is fitted with stained glass windows and crystal symbols. At the far end, after a slight bend in the long hall, stands the sanctuary for priests and the altar marked by a full archway. The long pews are a fair distance from the altar. Below the crucifix is the customary sanctuary light that remains on at all times as an indication of the leftover Communion – the bread symbolising the body of Christ – from the Sunday mass in the tabernacle. Holy water spouts for visitors to bless themselves as they enter are fixed along the walls and there is a baptismal font at the foot of the grotto of Our Lady. The architect has paid particular attention to light and has used reflective, glittering white marble and cement on the floors and walls. But amid all of this its is the colourful paintings that bring the church to life.

Saint Peter’s namesake is decked with his effigy above the sanctuary arch and the dome of the sanctuary is adorned with a colossal painting depicting a number of scenes from St Peter’s life with Jesus.

The acoustics of the main hall have been designed specifically with the help of popular musician Louis J Pinto, commonly known as Gumby. They allow the choir to be heard across the hall without any added amplification.

Though it snowballed into a huge project, the idea for the re-construction of St Peter’s Church did not start out that way. “Due to our limited resources we had not imagined that we were embarking on a service as big as this,” explained Father Mario Rodrigues, the church’s assistant parish priest. Already busy making arrangements for the fourth wedding on the fifth day after the church opened, the priest told The Express Tribune that the ground-breaking ceremony was held on November 22 back in 2009. Workers began demolishing the original 26-year-old church on January 2010.

Once construction began, a lot of international and national societies got together to expand the church. They include the Missio, Pontifical Mission Societies, the Italian Bishop’s Conference and the Rothenberg diocese in Germany. However, what Fr Rodrigues described as the most heartening contributions, were those from the community that made up almost 25% of the total cost – Rs5 million. He reminisced about one of the initial donations of Rs50,000. When the Fathers decided to go to the family’s house to thank them personally, they were shocked to see that the donors lived in a two-room house. “We were so touched that we decided we could not accept it from them but they insisted, saying that they had been saving the money especially for the church over the course of several years.”

The Perpetual Adoration chapel is among the most exclusive services offered at the church. The room with glass walls will remain open around the clock. It is the first time such a service has been made available for 24 hours at any church in the city, said Fr. Rodrigues.

All through the 11-month period of noisy construction, everyone in the neighbourhood coorperated, said Rehan, a Christian worker at the church. The audio and video CD shop owner always stops his loud promotional music during ceremonies and the entire commercial lane shut down for security on the day of the inauguration.

The church will cater to Akhtar Colony, Mehmoodabad, Kashmir Colony and Manzoor Colony’s Catholic community – an estimated 3,800 families with an average of six members each. It falls under St Paul’s Parish Priest Father Saleh Diego.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th,  2011.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • AM
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:47AM

    Congratulations to our Catholic brothers and sisters. May we all live together in peace

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  • CK
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:12AM

    Where are all the Indian trolls now?

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  • Christian Pakistani
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:17AM

    I thank Pakistan for giving us this magnificent. I have been to a lot of Muslim countries and I have now come to realize Pakistan is the most safest Muslim country for minorities. Although discrimination do exist in rural areas but for educated Christians in urban areas, its totally different. Pakistan Zindabad <3

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  • Josh Bhatti
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:23AM

    Pakistan Zindabad as Pakistani Christians we love our nation so much.

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  • Samir
    Nov 16, 2011 - 11:35AM

    @ CK – why do the Indians need to be anywhere?

    @ Christian Pakistani – I’m not sure you are correct. Turkey, Brunei, Malaysia, etc. are all probably much safer for minorities. I do appreciate your optimism though.

    Thank you to ET for showing such positive developments in Pakistan. We must continue to fight for freedom for all.

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  • Aftab Kenneth Wilson
    Nov 16, 2011 - 1:28PM

    Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia. Congrats to all Catholics in our country and thanks to all who contributed towards this noble cause. Surely, I shall attend Sunday Mass along with my kids. I am very happy and pray for peace between all religions and well being of our country.

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  • Samson Simon Sharaf
    Nov 16, 2011 - 1:33PM

    Great Work!
    God Bless

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  • Wowemkay
    Nov 16, 2011 - 2:23PM

    Congratulations and all praise to my Christian friends for this wonderful achievement. May your efforts lead is all to peace and harmony and respectful support of every minority in Pakistan exactly as the Father of the Nation envisioned. Hope all who pray and worship there achieve spiritual purity and greater faith. Amen

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  • Ali
    Nov 16, 2011 - 4:09PM

    Mubarak! Very good news to hear that our Christian countrymen are constructing Churches that are so beautiful. May God grant all of us to live in peace and harmony as one nation. Amen!

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  • Pakistani
    Nov 16, 2011 - 4:46PM

    Congratulations to our Christian citizens of Pakistan. Islam gives equal rights to all minorities and our beloved founder of Pakistan Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was the supporter of this kind of humanity.

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  • Lady
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:05PM

    Who cares?

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  • ali
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:12PM

    mubarak to our masihi friendsRecommend

  • Farooq
    Nov 16, 2011 - 5:33PM

    @Christian Pakistani:

    Your comments brightened up my day. Thank you my Pakistani brother

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Nov 16, 2011 - 7:05PM

    @CK:

    Where are all the Indians now

    Busy clicking the recommend buttons for all the positive commentsRecommend

  • ZOHAIB JAFRI
    Nov 16, 2011 - 8:22PM

    Congratulations to all brothers regardless of any religion, we all must live with unity, faith and discipline for the sake of our country and humanity. INSHALLAH In pakistan empowerment WILL BE FOR all.

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  • Noise
    Nov 16, 2011 - 9:50PM

    Well good luck and safety to Pakistan’s Christians

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  • Baloch
    Nov 16, 2011 - 10:56PM

    Best of luck with the Church, I pray for your safety.. But on the same time PTA blocked the the word Jesus Christ in sms.. Is this the way minorities should be treated in an Islamic country?
    I feel ashamed

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  • Shavi
    Nov 16, 2011 - 11:19PM

    Congratulations to our fellow Pakistani Christians.

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  • Mark Joseph
    Nov 17, 2011 - 1:02AM

    Dear Bishop Sahib and Fr Sialeh Diego and Fr, Mario aap sab ko pakistan ka sab se bara Church banane ke liye bohat bohat Mubarak ho Recommend

  • Mark Joseph
    Nov 17, 2011 - 1:07AM

    Dear all Pakistani Masihi Nation I would like to say now we have big Catholic Church in Pakistan even in Asia. I want to say all Masihi nation Happy Church to all Christian.and very very congratulation our Arch bishop and Parish Priest fr Sialeg and Fr, Marion Mark Joseph.

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  • Matthew Fernandez
    Nov 17, 2011 - 4:11AM

    Great job and congrats everyone on the largest church in Pakistan!

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  • Padma Patel
    Nov 17, 2011 - 8:55PM

    From ALL the Indian trolls congratulations Pakistan this great achievement is very commendable but now comes the real challenge and writing supporting comments on this great venture is a little premature the test of the acceptance and success of minorities to pray will come in the future months.
    How many of the commentators on this subject are willing to volunteer their service part time to ensure the safety of the church grounds and it people. Does Pakistan have a civic volunteer army that patrols areas of minority residence to ensure safety for its members? this said action speaks louder than words!Recommend

  • Sebastian
    Nov 19, 2011 - 3:30AM

    I’m really happy for you, brothers and sisters in Pakistan!
    Seems like a beautiful church!

    (but when celebrating mass in your new church – please remember to pray for the Christians in Afghanistan, who got no churches at all).

    God bless you all.

    Congratulations from a Norwegian brother in the Catholic faith.

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  • Mehr
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:09AM

    Congratulations to the Christian community, who funded the project? No credit given?

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  • Shahzad Sarwar
    Nov 25, 2011 - 12:10PM

    Beautiful House of GOD, may God help us, in making other Churches

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  • zeist
    Dec 6, 2011 - 1:04AM

    congratulations to our christian brothers and sisters !! it makes me so proud that they have made this magnificent church and we pray there may be more churches in the land and may God protect them

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  • Khan of quetta
    Dec 8, 2011 - 10:05PM

    They make small churches all over pakistan but this looks gigantic

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