PAKISTAN: Scotland's Cardinal O'Brien calls for Shahbaz Bhatti to be made a saint
By John Newton
Shahbaz Bhatti in 2006, at a refugee camp set up after the Pakistan earthquake of 2005
Scotland's most senior Catholic bishop has called for the Church to consider declaring Shahbaz Bhatti a saint.
In a statement issued today, 2nd March – the first anniversary of Mr Bhatti's death – Cardinal Keith Patrick O'Brien, Archbishop of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh, expressed his hope that the Church will look into the option of canonising Mr Bhatti.
Appointed federal minister for minorities, a Cabinet position in Pakistan's government, Shahbaz Bhatti took up the cause of religious freedom, speaking out against persecution and in so doing knowingly putting his life in danger.
Noting that the canonisation process normally begins five years after the candidate's death, 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."
Catholic pop band ooberfuse created the above video, which includes a contribution by Aid to the Church in Need's John Pontifex, in tribute to Shahbaz Bhatti. They have also released a single, Blood Cries Out, in his memory. They will be performing at a peace rally in Trafalgar Square on Satruday 10th March.
The cardinal went on to say: "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 Latin America's Archbishop Oscar Romero might one day become one of the patron saints of Central and South America as well.
Cardinal O'Brien's call to examine Mr Bhatti's worthiness for sainthood was made in a statement to Aid to the Church in Need, which is one of the organisers behind an event in central London honouring the Pakistani politician.
A peace rally and concert on Saturday 10th March, led by the British Pakistani Christian Association, will commemorate the anniversary of Mr Bhatti's death and call for changes to Pakistan's blasphemy laws and the way they are enforced.
The blasphemy laws impose sentences including execution and life imprisonment for offences against Islam. Mr Bhatti was murdered for speaking out after Asia Bibi became the first woman to be sentenced to death under these laws.
In his call to look into the possibility of the Catholic politician being canonised, Cardinal O'Brien described him as a man who had lived and died for his Christian faith.
He 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."