History of the Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta
In 1870 Quetta started as a chaplaincy, serving the British Army soldiers. It developed after 1878, as part of the Afghanistan Mission of the Mill Hill Fathers (M.H.M). Fr. Temme, a Mill Hill Priest, was the first missionary assigned to Quetta in 1878. However, there were some doubts concerning where it fitted in the Church’s pattern of Jurisdiction. When Afghanistan was established as a new Vicariate around 1882, Quetta was assigned to the jurisdiction of the Bombay Apostolic Vicariate. The following year (1883), the first Jesuit priest, Fr. Ferdinand Hillenkamp S.J. was assigned to Quetta. , the Jesuits took over Quetta from the Mill Hill Fathers and looked after this region right up to 1935. The Franciscan (OFM) took over from the Jesuits and administered the Quetta region till 1982. In 1982 the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) took over and are looking after the area till today. The Salesian Fathers (S.D.B) arrived in 1999 and are working with the Oblates in Quetta City.
The Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta, consisting of the whole of the Province of Balochistan, Pakistan, was erected as a separated ecclesiastical unit, by the Bulla “Spectantibus cunctis” (Congregatio Pro Gentium Evangelization, Prot. Num. 5947/01,) on the ninth day of November, in the year of the Lord two thousand and one (9.11.2001) by His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. This new ecclesiastical territory was carved out of the Archdiocese of Karachi and the Diocese of Hyderabad. The official announcement was made in Vatican City and Pakistan, on the 7th of December 2001. The official Promulgation was made in Quetta by His Excellency Msgr. Alessandro D’Errico D.D. titular Archbishop of Carinensis and Apostolic Nuncio of Pakistan, on the 7th April 2002. The Archbishops and Bishops of Pakistan, together with many priests, religious and laity, were present on this occasion. On the same day, Very Rev. Fr. Victor Ganapragasam OMI installed an ecclesiastical unit.
On the 29th of April 2010, the Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, an announcement was made in the Vatican that His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has raised the status of the Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta to an Apostolic Vicariate by the Bulla “Singulari Quidem” and Very Rev. Fr. Victor Ganapragasam OMI, the incumbent Apostolic Perfect, was appointed as the Apostolic Vicar of Quetta, with Episcopal Dignity. His Excellency, Msgr. Adolfo Tito C. Yllana D.D., Titular Archbishop of Montecorvino and Apostolic Nuncio of Pakistan, was entrusted with the duty of implementing the decision of the Holy See. Due to the Law and order situation In Quetta, the Episcopal ordination of Bishop-elect Very Rev. Fr. Victor Ganapragasam OMIM was held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Karachi, on Friday, the 16th of July 2010. The ordaining Prelate was His Excellency, Msgr. Adolfo Tito C. Yllana D.D., Titular Archbishop of Montecorvino, the Apostolic Nuncio of Pakistan. The co-consecrators were: His Grace Msgr. Evarist Pinto D.D., Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Karachi and His Lordship Msgr. Max J. Rodrigues D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Hyderabad.
On Sunday, the 25th of July 2010, the Proclamation Ceremony of Quetta Prefecture as a Vicariate was held at St. Joseph’s Convent School Premises, Zarghoon Road, Quetta, presided by His Excellency, Msgr. Adolfo Tito C. Yllana D.D., Titular Archbishop of Montecorvino and Apostolic Nuncio of Pakistan. During this ceremony, His Lordship Msgr. Victor Ganapragasam OMI, Titular Bishop of Thimida, assumed the responsibility of the Vicariate as the First Apostolic Vicar of Quetta, in the presence of a large number of priests, religious and laity.
Boundary: The whole of Balochistan province –the biggest province in Pakistan and it covers 44% of the total area of the country 134,050 sq. miles (347,190 sq. km). Population 12.34 Million (2017 census: 12,344,408)
Divisions: Quetta, Kalat, Sibbi, Zhob, Nasirabad, Makran
Districts: Quetta, Killa Saifullah, Chagai, Pishin, Killa Abdullah, Kalat, Awaran, Mastung, Khran, Las Bela, Khuzdar, Sibi, Ziarat, Kohlu, Dera Bugti, Zhob, Musa Khel Bazasr, Barkan, Loralai, Nasirabad, Jhal Magsi, Bolan, Kachhi, Jafarabad, Gwadar, Panjgur, Turbat.
Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta Cantt
The Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta (Latin: Vicariatus Apostolicus Quettensis), originally the Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta, is known as an apostolic vicariate Quetta in Pakistan. It comprises the civil province of Balochistan and the Kachhi region of Punjab, Pakistan.
The areas were originally under the jurisdiction of the “Vicariate of the Great Mogul” which was established in 1697. In 1832, the Vicariate formed a part of the Archdiocese of Bombay and in 1878 it passed to the mission of Afghanistan, which had been entrusted to the Mill Hill missionaries. Quetta, in the years to follow, would be visited by Jesuits (who left in 1935) and then Franciscans (until 1982). In 1982, the pastoral care of the local community was entrusted to the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), later reinforced by Salesians.
Around 1990 the Catholics of Baluchistan had already started asking for a separate diocese. The Prefecture was established on November 9, 2001, by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hyderabad and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Karachi. The first Prefect Apostolic had been Fr. Victor Gnanapragasam of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Father Victor was installed in a ceremony presided by Archbishop Alessandro D’Errico, apostolic nuncio to Pakistan, at St. Joseph’s Convent School in Quetta. At that time the prefecture had eight priests and 12 Religious serving about 27,000 Catholics.
Victor Gnanapragasam was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka on November 21, 1940. At the age of 19, he entered the Oblate novitiate in Kalutara, Sri Lanka, and received the First Vows on May 31, 1960. After completing the studies of philosophy and theology at the Major Seminary of Our Lady of Lanka in Kandy, he was ordained a priest on December 21, 1966. First, he served as an assistant parish priest in the Oblate mission, Nilaweli, diocese of Trincomalee-Batticaloa (1967-1969); and then as a member of the community of Oblate Preachers in Jaffna (1969-1973).
It was in 1973, that the young priest Fr. Victor was sent to Pakistan as a missionary. From then, until his death, he dedicated his whole life to ministering to the people of God in Pakistan. His pastoral commitment was in many capacities: as Parish Vicar or Parish Priest in various parishes; as Formator of the Oblate Formation Houses in Multan and Karachi; and as Major Superior of the Provincial Delegation of Pakistan. His Superiors also sent him abroad several times for further studies: Studies in Youth Ministry in Manila, Philippines (1977-1979); Psychology and Spirituality at St. Anselm Institute in Kent, England and then later courses in Spirituality at the Angelicum, Rome (1989-1992).
As the Christian community in Quetta was developing fast in many ways, spiritual, social, and political, a new Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta was established by His Holiness John Paul II on December 07, 2001. Fr. Victor was appointed the first-ever Prefect. In that capacity, he was at the Vatican for the ad limina Apostolorum visit of the Pakistani Bishops in June 2008.
Quetta is the Capital city of the Province of Baluchistan. It was in 1982 that the Oblate accepted a mission in Quetta for the first time. During that time it belonged to the diocese of Hyderabad. This volatile province has witnessed recent past suicide bombings, sectarian violence, and at times religious-based discrimination as well. On several occasions, Bishop Victor narrowly escaped from bomb blasts and attacks. In 2013, he sustained injuries as a result of a suicide bombing that took place in the vicinity of the Bishop’s House.
Bishop Victor served the Apostolic Vicariate of Quetta during the war in neighboring Afghanistan, which was one of the biggest challenges during his episcopal ministry. As his Vicariate covers vast desert mountainous areas which are controlled not only by the Pakistani military but also by Balochi rebels, always requires careful movements of priests, most of the time risking their own lives.
Despite all those challenges, he was always close to his flock and made all efforts to attend to their spiritual, pastoral, and material needs often by visiting them and being with them. In the recent past, he suffered cardiac issues and despite his ailments, he continued to attend to the needs of his Vicariate.
In 2008, the Prefecture was subdivided into six parishes and served nearly 30,000 Catholics. In Quetta, there are 5 congregations of religious sisters namely St. Joseph Sisters of Chambray, Dominican Sisters of St. Catherine of Siena, Good Shepherd, and Holy Family of Bordeaux serving (20 Nuns) and 14 priests, including OMIs and Salesians.
On 29 April 2010 Pope Benedict XVI elevated the apostolic prefecture of Quetta to the rank of the apostolic vicariate. He appointed Fr. Victor Gnanapragasam as the apostolic vicar of the new ecclesiastical circumscription and the titular bishop of Timida. On 21 April 2012, the first ordination of a Catholic priest in Baluchistan took place in St. Pius X Parish Church, Samungli Road, Quetta. Deacon Gulshan Barkat of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate was ordained by Bishop Victor Gnanapragasam, the Vicar Apostolic of Quetta. On December 15, 2020, the Cathedral witnessed the funeral of Bishop Gnanapragasam, who died on December 12, 2020, from a heart attack. The funeral service was led by Cardinal Joseph Coutts accompanied by all the bishops of Pakistan. He was buried in the garden of the Cathedral before the Marian Grotto.
Bishop Victor has left behind a rich legacy to the people of Pakistan, especially the poor, the local church, the Delegation, Sri Lanka, and at large the Congregation. Let us pray for the eternal rest of this great missionary Bishop who has served one of the most persecuted Christian Communities in the world. May his soul rest in peace and consolation to the entire OMI family in the Delegation of Pakistan!
On January 1, 2021, Pope Francis named Father Khalid Rehmat OFM (Cap) as the new vicar apostolic of Quetta. He was consecrated bishop at St. Francis Grammar School Compound on 25 March 2021. His Excellency Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis with the college of Bishops ordained Fr. Khalid Rehmat OFM Cap, as the second apostolic vicar for the vicariate of Quetta.
At present, there are about 7 parishes within the vicariate that cater to the spiritual, pastoral, social, and educational, needs of its faithful. Namely Holy Rosary Cathedral Quetta Cantt, Sacred Heart Jinnah Road Quetta City, Christ the King Essanagri Quetta City, St. Eugene’s Parish Nawan Killi Quetta, St. Pius X Samunggly Road Quetta, St. Francis Assisi Loralai, St. Eugene Sibi.
There are about 7 schools such as St. Francis Grammar boys high school, St. Joseph’s Covent girls high school, Sacred Heart Urdu Medium girls high school, St. Michael boys high school, St. Gabriel Primary School, St. Eugene High School, Don Bosco High School.
Several commissions are serving the vicariate e.g. Catholic Bible Commission, Caritas Pakistan, Sunday school, Catechetical Commission, Family Commission, and PMS. All these commissions sever the vicariate according to their capacities within their jurisdiction.