Pope Francis names 54-year-old successor to Cardinal Coutts in Karachi

Pope Francis names 54-year-old successor to Cardinal Coutts in Karachi

Cardinal Joseph Coutts at the Rome office of Aid to the Church in Need April 2, 2019. DANIEL IBÁNEZ/CNA

By Catholic News Agency

February 11, 2021

Pope Francis on Thursday named a 54-year-old successor to Cardinal Joseph Coutts as Archbishop of Karachi, Pakistan.

The Holy See press office announced on Feb. 11 that the pope had chosen Bishop Benny Mario Travas to lead Latin Rite Catholics in Pakistan’s largest city.

Karachi, the capital of Sindh province in southern Pakistan, has an estimated population of more than 16 million people, making it the world’s 12th-largest city.

The pope also accepted the resignation of the 75-year-old Cardinal Coutts from the pastoral governance of Karachi archdiocese after nine years in charge.

Travas was born in Karachi on Nov. 21, 1966, and ordained a priest on Dec. 7, 1990.

He gained a licentiate in canon law from the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, an institution belonging to the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

He served as the rector of the St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Karachi, vicar general of Karachi archdiocese, and vice president of the Catholic Board of Education. He was also a professor of canon law at the National Catholic Institute of Theology in Karachi.

In 2014, he was appointed apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Multan, southern Punjab. He became the bishop of Multan a year later. He is the chairman of Caritas Pakistan.

According to the website catholic-hierarchy.org, there were 197,700 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Karachi in 2019. The Diocese of Karachi was initially established in 1948 under the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Bombay, India. It was elevated to an archdiocese in 1950.

Coutts, an outspoken defender of persecuted Christians, received the red hat from Pope Francis on June 28, 2018.

He served as president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 2011 to 2017, and was chairman of Caritas Pakistan from 1998 to 2017.

There are around 1.3 million Catholics in Pakistan, a Muslim-majority country with an estimated population of 233 million.

In January, the charity Open Doors named Pakistan, the world’s fifth-most populous nation, as the fifth-worst country in the world in which to be a Christian.

In a 2018 interview with CNA, Coutts reflected on the rise of extremism in his homeland.

“We’ve always had these kinds of people on the fringes, but they weren’t dominant,” he said. “Now they are becoming more assertive.”

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