Abbotabbad's Catholic Community

Priest limited church activities after bin Laden raid.

(photo: Shutterstock)

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan (CNS) — The priest at the small Catholic parish in this northern city says he has limited its activities after the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 terror attacks killed by U.S. special forces.

“I couldn’t conduct pastoral visits to homes yesterday after security increased,” Father Akram Javed Gill told the Asian Church news agency UCA News May 2. “A healing prayer service scheduled today and upcoming Church feasts were canceled. Also the four policemen posted guard for the church have been put on high alert.”

The priest has been in charge of the St. Peter Canisius Catholic Church since 2007 in Abbotabbad, the gateway city to the northern mountainous region. About 150 Catholics live in the city.

The Association of Churches of Hazara Division, which includes the Catholic Church, has called a meeting to formulate a future strategy in the area.

“It is crucial to maintain peace for the scattered minority communities in the area. We alter the venue at the last moment to avoid leaking the information about the gathering in a tense atmosphere,” said Father Javed Gill.

The priest described the events as they unfolded during the raid.

“We never saw helicopters flying so low. Nobody knew what was going on, and we thought it was a military exercise at first,” said the priest, who also oversees the only Catholic school, St. Peter’s, in the city. About 200 students, most of them Muslims, study there.

The priest said he has faced difficulties in his work in Abbottabad, which is home to a large military establishment. He had to build higher walls to the church compound in 2009 after Muslims objected to the “open display” of the statue of Mary in a grotto in the grounds.

Last year, the authorities asked him to burn several copies of a pamphlet inviting Catholics for Marian devotion.