St. Patrick's Cathedral: A historic place of worship for the Christian community from Goa to Karachi

St. Patrick's Cathedral: A historic place of worship for the Christian community from Goa to Karachi
St. Patrick's Cathedral historic place of worship for Christian community from Goa to Karachi

The sun's rays are falling on the alternating table through the stained glass windows in the towering dome-like walls.

An alternate table is a large table placed between the three-foot-high platform in the church.

It has a bright white and purple sheet on it. On one side of the altar table is a large purple candle.

This is a view of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi where, like the rest of the world, special arrangements have been made for worship on the first Sunday morning of December.

But for the 12-year-old Ashita de Souza, the church is seeing something unique this year.

Everything looks great," she says in English. The walls have been repainted. The windows have stained glass and the church has LEDs.

St. Patrick's Cathedral is located on Clark Street in the ancient city of Sadr City, now called the Iraq Highway.

St. Patrick's Church is approximately 178 years old and is considered one of the city's historic landmarks.

The provincial government has declared the church a national heritage site by listing it as a historic building.

By area, St. Patrick's Cathedral is the largest Christian shrine in Karachi. Historians believe that this is the first church to be built by the British in Sindh.

Built in 1881, the church is 22 meters wide and 52 meters long. And it has a seating capacity of about 1,500 people.

The building is made of stone, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, similar to churches around the world.

The roof of the church is sloping. At both corners of the entrance are square walls with pointed minarets with crosses.

In the same way, at the back, just above the altar table, there is a pink pointed tower, with a balcony in the middle, and a cross at the top of the dome.

Over time, the church building began to crumble.

Therefore, at the request of the church administration, the Chief Minister of Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah gave a huge amount of Rs.

Former church bishop and cardinal Joseph Coates said: "During the rainy season, water was dripping from the roof of the church and the floor was getting wet due to rotten sewerage system. That's why we started this work.

The renovation work of the church building was completed by the engineers of the provincial culture department in a period of two and a half years.

He says: "It was a difficult task but the engineers completed it in a very happy manner under the supervision of the officers of the culture department. Restoring the old church building to its original condition was a challenge.

The wooden windows on the church walls are decorated with glass colored paintings based on various religious events and characters.

The glasses were bought from a German glass company from which they were bought decades ago, while the engineers of the same company came to Karachi and installed the glasses themselves.

During this time the usual services were held inside the church building, while on festivals such as Christmas and Easter, arrangements were made in a large backyard in view of the large number of worshipers. Thus the worshipers endured cold and extreme heat for two and a half years.

However, in October of this year, the wait was over and Bishop of Karachi Diocese Benny Mariotrouse wiped the church building with clean water and opened it for worshipers.

Christ the King 

The pink stone towers on top of this yellow stone building make it beautiful.

But what sets St. Patrick's Cathedral apart from Roman Catholic churches across Pakistan is the large white marble terrace right in front of its yellow and pink buildings.

In the center of the tower is a statue of Christ the King, with two angels on the right and two on the left.

In the center of  tower is statue of Christ the King, with two angels on the right and two on the left.

In the center of the tower is a statue of Christ the King, with two angels on the right and two on the left.

The steps of the terrace, built in a circular shape, are also covered with marble, and there are statues of angels with petals, placed on the small wall and small minarets in between.

Guan Christian Church,

Guan Christians live in the area around St. Patrick's Cathedral. His forefathers came to Karachi from the southern Indian state of Goa decades ago for business and then settled here.

Due to its proximity, most Guan Christians have been coming to St. Patrick's for decades to worship. That is why it is also called the Church of Gwans.

Guan Christian woman Sheryl de Souza shows off her family album in an apartment near Kent Station. She says her grandparents were born in Goa but moved to Karachi after the marriage. Her parents were born in Karachi while she herself was born here.

Our three generations have been worshiping in this (St. Patrick's) church. And now our daughter goes to church with us. 

Historically, the state of Goa has been under Portuguese rule for four and a half centuries, and after independence in 1961, it came under Indian rule.

Having been under Portuguese influence for so long, the Hindus there converted from the missionaries to Christianity, giving them access to higher education.

The Guan Christians who came to Karachi were highly educated and well versed in various walks of life," says Shirley de Souza. That is why he came to Karachi and easily got jobs in various government, semi-government and missionary organizations.

She adds that “Guan Christians play an important role in the development of Karachi's administration and infrastructure. He designed and built many masterpieces while raising the standard of education in missionary educational institutions.

As Goa is a coastal region, most of the people are pale due to the climatic effects.

In the summer, however, these people are seen coming to church in large floral designs and brightly colored shirts and pants or skirts.

Goa in Karachi
Goa in Karachi

Goa in Karachi

Christians coming to Karachi from Goa also brought with them Portuguese culture.

Guan pastors (nuns) or nuns (monks) have been performing their religious duties in St. Patrick's Cathedral for decades.

Benny Mariotrauss, who was recently appointed Bishop of Karachi, also belongs to this community.

Every Sunday evening at St. Patrick's Cathedral, there is a special English-language service for Guan Christians and a different atmosphere.

Because Guan, who is very modern and liberal in terms of lifestyle, has young boys in trousers, shirts and girls in skirts and jeans.

It feels like this is not Pakistan but a western country.

How does Guan celebrate Christmas?

Guan Christians are said to be very noble and solitary people who like to associate with people in their own community.

Surprisingly, while Guan Christians pray day and night for peace in St. Patrick's Church, there has been a huge firearms market around the church and its homes for decades.

Coincidentally, there is a small bakery between the two arms shops, which has been run by Guan woman Stephanie and her mother for many years.

With the arrival of Christmas, there are candies, chocolates and other such items made in a special way for children. Traditional Christmas dishes are also prepared to order.

My eyes fell on a large red gift pack lying in the corner in which the sweets are packed with different colored papers in such a way that they look very attractive. In front is a list of traditional foods with food names and prices written on them.

Foods include Chana Dosa, Babinka, Kalkal, Neuros, Baticha, Fruit Cake, Roast Beef, Pork Potal.

The bakery owner, Stephanie, says: "Surpotel is a dish that is cooked at every Christian's house for Christmas. It contains the heart, kidneys and lungs of a cow. Served with rice cake. You will find this dish in every home for Christmas. Surpotel is like the soul of Christmas.

She also adds that traditional "rich plum" cakes are made for Christmas. While special sweets are prepared for children.

Why are Guan Christians declining?

The Guan Christian community was already very limited in number, but has declined in recent years.

Basel Andrews is a young journalist from the Guan community. "A large number of people have migrated to other countries because of the country's economic woes and the fear of decades-long wave of terrorism and extremism," he said. Because Guans are usually highly educated, they can easily find jobs in other countries. That's why the survivors are either poor or under-educated. "

On the other hand, the number of Christians coming from Punjab for employment has multiplied in the last few decades.

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"That is why every Sunday a prayer for the Punjabis is performed in Urdu, while on Christmas and Easter the two languages ​​are performed simultaneously in both languages," says Basel Andrews.

The coming together of Christians belonging to two different economic classes, namely Guan and Punjabi, is also creating some problems which no one wants to talk about openly.

A young man from the Guan community, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the BBC: "It is unfortunate, but it is true that the number of Christians coming to the church from Punjab is increasing due to the low number of Guan. Is. They are usually less educated and their lifestyle is different from ours. They don't think of maintenance as Guan. 

Although the number of Guan people is declining, their third generation of young boys and girls are living in the country for a bright future.