We were among 160 viewers watching the Easter Eve service streamed live on the Facebook page of Catholic TV, which is owned by Lahore Archdiocese. Archbishop Sebastian Shaw and a dozen worshipers, most of them nuns, lit the Easter candle in a hauntingly empty compound of Sacred Heart Cathedral.
“It’s a different kind of happiness. The pandemic affected our prayer services but God saved us. Some people, gripped by grief and fear, are storing rations amid the food shortage. It is our duty to spread hope and happiness,” said the archbishop.
The ritual kissing of the crucifix was replaced by the faithful kissing their own rosaries. We kept a water bottle near our laptop as the archbishop blessed Easter water. My wife sprinkled it on family members and the front door so that the pandemic would “pass over.” She sobbed silently as the prelate concluded the Mass by blessing those watching at home.
This was the first time that churches had been ordered to close in the Islamic republic at Easter. The pastoral team of Sacred Heart Cathedral celebrated seven Easter Masses last year due to a constant influx of “rice Christians” donning their Eid dresses. The memories of past Easters felt like several films projecting onto a silver screen at the same time, overlapping each other.