The life and work of Bishop Dr. Andrew Francis

* 29.11.1948 in Adah, Pakistan † 06. June 2017 in Lahore

Priestly ordination 10.01.1972 Bishop ordination 09.02.2000


Stations:

  • Head of the interreligious national commission for ecumenism
  • National Commission for Sacred Liturgy and for Catholic Liturgy in Urdu (national language of Pakistan).
  • Member of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue in Rome and the International Commission for Liturgy in English, and on the
  • Committee of the Government of Pakistan for Religious Minorities. Honorary chairman of the Center for Human Rights and chairman of the Justice and Peace Commission.


With the kind permission of the association Friedenszeichen e.V., here follows a text that very well reflects the stages of the life of Bishop Andrew Francis, since his meeting with Father Burkhard Nogga †, who was subordinate to the bishop for 20 years.  As a member of the Signs of Peace Association, I was able to witness the work of the Bishop, especially in Germany, from the very beginning.

Twenty years full of gratitude

For twenty years our association Friedenszeichen e.V. has supported Bishop Andrew. As a young priest, he repeatedly made vacation substitutions in a church near us. He spoke several languages fluently, but in Germany he needed his sermons translated from English. In the summer of 1997, our 1st chairperson, Mrs. Grundberger, was invited to translate. Little did she know that her first meeting with him was the beginning of a long lasting friendship.

 

Bishop Appointment by Pope John Paul II in 2000


In the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul II appointed Dr. Andrew Francis as the new Bishop of Multan. We were invited as guests to Lahore in Pakistan for the bishop's consecration. Since then we have been supporting his very beneficial work. Every year he was a guest in our association house in Germany and we helped him with contacts to many people, church communities and also to aid organizations like Missio, Kirche in Not and others. Many personal friendships developed, especially with Rev. Dr. Richard Kocher, the program director of Radio Horeb. Again and again Bishop Andrew spoke to the listeners of the radio about his work and about his country. He was an important voice for the persecuted church.

 

Our visit to Pakistan


Several times we were guests in the diocese of Multan in Pakistan. Together with the bishop we visited the often widely scattered Christian communities. We rode on camels through the desert, we went in a fishing boat at sunset on the big river Indus, we were on the way on oxcarts and rickshaws. Again and again we were invited by the Christian families and communities and were overwhelmed by their warmth. We made them understand that they are not alone, that we stand by them in their need and pray for them.

The worldwide extent of persecution of Christians in our day is unfortunately hardly a topic in today's Western media. Through our direct friendship with Bishop Andrew, we were also affected and were able to facilitate a lot of help and support with a large circle of friends. We met there in the desert of Multan Christians with a strong faith and a great love, and we felt strengthened by them in faith, taken back to the times of the Acts of the Apostles.

One bishop for all

The bishop not only helped Christians, but in times of need he never made a distinction between people's faith and ancestry. He was there for everyone. Especially during the great flood disaster, but also during the earthquake in the north of the country, help was given. Many families received tents and warm blankets. An ambulance donated from Austria cared for the sick. Especially the children and young people were close to Bishop Andrew's heart. Numerous schools were founded to help the children of the poor population to a better life through good education. Muslim and Christian children were to be educated to common values of tolerance and charity.... It was Bishop Andrew's great dream to work on a new society of humanity through religious dialogue. He always tried to maintain good relations with the leaders of the mosques and with the political and social leaders.

Bishop Andrew a binding link between Christians and Muslims

Bishop Andrew was very popular not only in Christian circles. His words struck at the heart and changed people. Many Muslims also came to Multan Cathedral for the services and prayers for healing. Many were healed of their illnesses and diseases through the bishop's prayers. 

His life is reminiscent of the lives of the great apostles. Unfortunately, however, even for him there was the imminent danger of falling victim to terrorism.

When Christian churches and villages were burned and Christians were persecuted, wounded or even killed, it was the bishop who called for forgiveness and reconciliation. He always counteracted an escalation of violence, in which mutual revenge would have caused even more harm.

 

The great flood

In 2010, when the Indus River overflowed its banks and flooded a large part of the Diocese of Multan, the Bishop himself waded through the water to save lives. Through all the good relationships we were able to build up over the years here in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, many relief supplies and donations flowed to the poor people affected by the flood, some of which we distributed ourselves during our visit.

Already at the beginning of the disaster, the diocese established a disaster relief service together with Caritas Multan. In all areas of the Diocese of Multan, these people were on the road to bring help to the victims. Food was urgently needed, as well as household goods, clothing, blankets, tents, water filters, medical supplies and other goods.

Although he fulfilled his episcopal duties with full commitment, Bishop Andrew had many other duties and offices.

The accident


Three times, over the years on Bishop Andrew Francis the attempt was made to kill him, always he was spared and protected. Unfortunately, the great work of Bishop Andrew came to a tragic end when a car hit the bishop's vehicle the night after he returned from Rome in the fall of 2012, seriously injuring him, the drivers of the vehicle causing the accident could never be determined. Through our association we called for donations for him. The bishop could be treated in a special clinic in Germany.

Bishop's death after long suffering


Things got better, but he remained a paraplegic in a wheelchair and decided to resign a year later. He was dependent on nursing care. In 2017, his health deteriorated, and he died on June 6, 2017, after nearly five years of suffering. Thousands of people attended his funeral. His grave is next to the Multan Cathedral, which was renovated by him, and became a place of pilgrimage.

Bishop Andrew always worked for the construction of a civilization of love, following the call of Pope John Paul II, of tolerance and justice. In memory of this great charismatic bishop, his brother Joe Francis wrote:

 

Testimony of his brother

"Despite all the difficult circumstances, Andrew was never discouraged or disappointed in life. He never complained and always kept his composure. His confident, peaceful face, his strong voice, and also his mischievous smile will always be deeply remembered by me. My brother was a prayerful person, a person who loved peace, who built many bridges and relationships through his work for interfaith dialogue. Who worked for peace and justice even in the most difficult situations, thus preventing and curbing much revenge and mischief between people. He was a gifted speaker and writer, a very bold, revolutionary thinker."