Our Lady of Fatima Parish: A wonderful church hidden in Karachi

Published: July 28, 2013
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Our Lady of Fatima Church continues to serve as a place of worship for all its parishioners. PHOTO: GLENN RYALL

Over the years, Karachi has become more of a commercial pothole. Buildings are constructed in the most unexpected yet absurd places, while dhaabas (tea shops) and hotels sprout like shrubs in every nook and corner of the city. It has become congested and overwhelming.  

It is due to this hotchpotch that many citizens remain unaware of the great architectural brilliance that lies hidden deep inside the city.

One such building that is overlooked is a church called Our Lady of Fatima. This beautiful structure lies sandwiched between Anklesaria Hospital (near the Garden area) and the infamous Gul Plaza shopping mall.

The foundation stone of the church was laid by HE Mgr Xavier Zupie, the Vatican internuncio. However, it was not until a year later that the church was blessed and dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima. Since then the church has been in consistent service to Catholics located nearby.

What makes this church different from all the others located in Karachi is its unique circular structure. It is interesting to note is that no other churches in South Asia are built in the same way as this one.

Additionally, the church has a separate bell tower which gives it an Anglo-Saxon touch that makes it look more glamorous. To the right of the church, there is a grotto built in dedication to the Apparition of Our Lady to the three children in Fátima, Portugal.

Recently the church witnessed a major internal overhaul directed by the current parish priest Fr Luis Esquinas Pajuelo in accordance with the norms of the Second Vatican Council. This has added to the interior of the church by making it look more rich and modern.

In the future, there are plans of making the entire church centrally air-conditioned.  However, this is not possible at the moment because of insufficient funds.

Nonetheless, Our Lady of Fatima Church continues to serve as a place of worship for all its parishioners and also stands proud as one of the most eminent architectural landmarks present in Karachi.

PHOTOS: GLENN RYALL

Follow Glenn on Twitter @GlennRyall

Glenn Ryall

Glenn Ryall

A technical writer who loves exploring the creative side of writing. He loves all kinds of sports and enjoys reading. He blogs at glenns-busy-corner.blogspot.com/ and tweets @GlennRyall

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Mehdi

    Please be safe. Wish your sanctuary is always protected by evil eyes.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Oh God, now those who didn’t know about the place will want to grab it for building a commercial plaza. Perhaps they will keep the first floor of the plaza as a place of worship for the few Catholics left in Karachi. Let’s hope the commercial mafia is prevented by the courts from doing this.Recommend

  • Gingo

    I used to study add maths from my teacher sir leroy near the flats hereRecommend

  • Ahmed

    If Pakistan would have been an Islamic State, the protection of this church would have been the responsibility of the State. Their protection would have been a bigger issue then protection of Mosques, as per Islamic Law.

    P.S. Just wanted to tell you what Islam says about worship places of other religions before the Secluar-Liberal people(who have no knowledge of religion) start pointing fingers.Recommend

  • Wasif M Khan

    May God bless all those who pray at this beautiful church and may they all find real spirituality here. I hope the church thrives as do all those who worship there and make me proud of being a Muslim in this sad country. Recommend

  • Alucard

    @Ahmed:
    For your kind information secular-liberal people know a lot about religion -that is why we are secular. Maybe you should try to learn about what secularism actually is before maligning a whole group?

    First we must agree what our religion says before criticizing other ideologies. Thank you.Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    Beautiful architecture…. Bell Tower may be Anglo-Saxon but the overall style of building is very unlike the churches made during British Rule… Thanks for sharing the beauty…
    God bless you and your sanctuaryRecommend

  • Insaan

    @Ahmed: If Pakistan would have been an Islamic State, the protection of this church would have been the responsibility of the State. Their protection would have been a bigger issue then protection of Mosques, as per Islamic Law

    Pakistan government and Mullahs all follow Islam. It is just people interpret things in a different way. You can pick and choose Sura’s that suit you. Everything that happens in Pakistan is Islamic.

    Saudi Arabia’s constitution is based on Quran and Sunnah. Any Christian carrying a bible in the open can be arrested. Any one who wants to leave the true religion (apostate) can be killedRecommend

  • machine

    @Gingo: me too. misqita gardens right next to the churchRecommend

  • Think again

    @ Ahmed

    Cough cough…. Sorry sir ,but does the Hagia Sophia in Turkey ring a bell ?

    Not only was the church –

    1. Looted
    2. Converted to a mosque

    Just one among many examples …Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Ahmed:

    I hope this beautiful church remains protected by al mighty. Recommend

  • Hina

    wait till they tell you that you cannot use the name Fatima for a church … Recommend

  • Sughra

    Its a beautiful Church!!Recommend

  • Muhammad Ishfaq

    @Insaan:
    “Pakistan govt and mullah all follow Islam……..Everything that happens in Pakistan is Islamic..”
    What sounds like music to my ears must have caused you so much pain while writing…. Anyway, going by your argument, if everything that happened in Pakistan was Islamic… you, my friend, would be dead a long time ago.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Ahmed:

    A secularist can be a practising Muslim. The goal is not to discriminate and impose the wrong one type only ideology onto others. And unfortunately there are a lot of exploitive hypocrites, biased and ignorant masses and illiterate extremists who twist and hi-jack religion, such as Islam, for their own gains, despite the positive humanitarian examples it may have. No one is going to mistake Saudi Arabia or Iran for being human rights champions for practising their brands of Islam. That’s why separating political driven religiosity and dogma from state functions can help guard and protect all citizens and their religions from such abuses. Its not a silver bullet solution to everything, such as corruption or better ethical practices, but it certainly lessons one unnecessary burden which could impede rational progress.

    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”

    -Thomas JeffersonRecommend

  • pacifist

    @Ahmed:
    Then why is Islamic Republic of Pakistan failing to protect the minorities? Do you mean, you what a Taliban state for minorities to get the protection they justly deserve?Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here

    It is a beautiful chruch indeed.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Looks very good in fact! Hope it stays secure and all the people frequenting it stay safe.

    On a side note, I have a question. Can anyone please tell me if churches in Pakistan are allowed to ring their bells, is there any constitutional clause, law etc regarding that? Thx in advance!Recommend

  • Indian Catholic

    @Glenn Ryall: Would love to see more such articles about the community in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @Bigsaf

    We’ll if you think just by following the worship part of Islam and leaving out the politico-socio-economic part of Islam the seculars are practicing Islam then you need to study what Islam is my friend. Either a person follows it or he doesn’t . There can’t be a FOLLOWER of Islam who believes that Islam’s policies for running a state should NOT be implemented.

    What Thomas Jefferson said is exactly what Islam says. Anyone in an Islamic State can follow his own religion . No need of reinventing the wheel.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @Pacifist

    How is Pakistan an Islamic State? just because its name says so? Is there a social-welfare system?NO. Is there segregation of sexes?NO. Is the legal system according to Islam? No.

    Pakistan is far from an Islamic State. Just like does not have the above stated Islamic laws, it also doesn’t have many other Islamic Laws.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @Think Again

    I can tell you many other incidents when MUSLIMS did not follow ISLAM. When you study such incidents then please THINK what the people did what follow Islam or their desires.Recommend

  • Elvira

    @Hasan:
    the curches are allowed to ring their bells but its just three rings ting ting n ting so it does not disturb anyone in any way.Recommend

  • Albertine

    Hi Glen,

    Good job with this. It’s a great feeling knowing that there are people in our community who have made this known to others about our churches. You must try to capture the besuty of other churches too and post it so that people know and understand about it.

    A huge thanks to all those who are praying for the church and its parishioners, and to the others please stop fighting about what Islam because no religion is bad its the people who manipulate things and set a bad example.*Recommend

  • Parvez

    Have seen the church years ago but not the inside. What is really intereting are the fresco’s on the wall………..when and by whom were they done ?
    That was a nice article and good pictures.
    Recommend

  • Hussain

    May ALLAH SWT bless this church and all other churches, mosques, imam barghahs, mandirs, gurdawaras, synagogues of Pakistan and all this people who pray at these beautiful placesof worship. Ameen. Recommend

  • Hasan

    @Elvira: That is really good to hear. Some countries in Europe do not allow the Azaan to be said out loud and in some places even the minarets are not allowed.
    So it makes me really happy to know that at least in Pakistan we are not taking revenge by prohibiting churches from ringing their bells :)Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Hasan:

    Minarets and saying adaan loud is not a mandatory requirement for worship. Almost all countries in EU allows mosque to be built and there is a complete religious freedom. Please don’t compare EU, US, UK or Canada’s acceptance of minorities with Pakistan. Pakistan needs to clean up its act.Recommend

  • gp65

    @Ahmed: I don’t think you understand the meaning of the word secular. IT is not the same as atheist – not that there is anything wrong with being an atheist either.
    I am a Hindu and secular. What this means is that while I personally practice Hinduism, I respect other people’s rght to worship as they choose – or not to, if that is what they choose. A secular state is one where there are no laws that discriminate against an individual on the basis of faith and there is o state religion. It does not however mean that citiznes of that state do not have a religion.

    Please update your knowledge before you comment about ‘secular people’.Recommend

  • many more as well

    @Think again: Quite right. Not just that one Church, thousands of Indian temples were destroyed and looted by the people that are lionized in Pakistan precisely for such actions e.g. Ghaznavi. The Babri structure that was brought down to ground in 1992 also was made on the same site where a temple was destroyed. Not just any temple but a temple considered partiularly holy to Hindus as they believed that Lord Ram was born there. Even today there are many mosques in India on sites where a temple once existed.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    @gp65

    Sir a Muslim cannot be secular. Islam differentiates people on the basis of religion. Now seculars don’t . How can they be Following Islam. I don’t know about Hinduism thats why i won’y talk about it. Seculars are Muslims but are transgressors as they follow one part of Islam and not the other. This is how it is in Islam.
    Please look at my comments. I never said seculars are not MUSLIMS. I don’t believe that. Neither do i believe seculars are atheists.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Ahmed:

    This is the entire problem. You say Pakistan is not an Islamic state, yet many will claim it is, and many laws will be claimed to be Islamic, be it on blasphemy or rape, etc. Can you name a country in your mind which is an Islamic state? Because if you can’t, you’ve pretty much condemned over a billion Muslims for being ‘transgressors’ for not following Islam. What about Muslim minorities living in the West who follow such governments. Are they transgressors too? This absolutist thinking is clearly not helping. Time and again we have found Islamist groups expousing political Islam only to be just as corrupt or incompetent and even more discriminatory and oppressive against other Muslims and non-Muslims than their counterparts. Even the mention of gender segregation as a national issue just displays skewed priorities.

    Recommend

  • Shahzad

    @Ahmed:
    Give me from history an example of an Islamic State Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    @ many more as well: Perhaps the Taj Mahal has also been built on the site of a demolished temple. Why don’t you pull it down as well?Recommend

  • Mano

    @Ahmed:
    funny the points you mentioned explaining how Pakistan is not an Islamic state. Segregation of sexes seems to be a bigger issue to you than all the corruption, honor killings, human rights and so on.. Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Ahmed:

    Secular Muslim don’t do dawa, they make religion a private matter and keep matter of spirituality between god and them. Recommend

  • Not an Islamic state ?

    @ Ahmed

    You may say that Pakistan isn’t an Islamic state, buy you need to remember that a non muslim can’t be president here ? There are anti blasphemy laws ?
    What happened to Salman Taseer ?

    Recommend

  • choclet

    such a pleasant surprise!!!Recommend

  • Atif

    @Think again: No cough, before Hagia Sophia, there was a mosque converted to a church in spain of Tariq Bin Ziyad Era. Do i need to remind you of that ??Recommend

  • Unhappy

    @ Shakir Lakhani

    Not everyone in India is happy about what happened in 1992.

    Pandit Nehru was vehemently against the encroachment of the babri mosque by local miscreants in Dec 1949 .But a few Vhs/Rss/Bjp madmen could undo so much just 43 years later…

    This is a country where the father of the nation,M.K.Gandhi was assassinated by Godse ( an Rss man ) for being too promuslim.Recommend

  • http://glenns-busy-corner.blogspot.com/ Glenn Ryall

    @Parvez:
    Hi the paintings were added on to the walls after the church had been renovated by Fr. Luis. They are Greek and Russian orthodox inspired paintings made by Kiko Arguelles. Recommend

  • http://glenns-busy-corner.blogspot.com/ Glenn Ryall

    @Gingo:
    Yeah i know Leroy personally, a great math teacher. Stay tuned i am thinking of covering up Misquita Blocks as well.Recommend

  • http://glenns-busy-corner.blogspot.com/ Glenn Ryall

    @Albertine:
    Thanks Albertine, surely will cover up more churches with time.Recommend

  • pacifist

    @Ahmed:
    “How is Pakistan an Islamic State? just because its name says so? Is there a social-welfare system?NO. Is there segregation of sexes?NO. Is the legal system according to Islam? No.
    Pakistan is far from an Islamic State. Just like does not have the above stated Islamic laws, it also doesn’t have many other Islamic Laws.”

    In short there is no Islamic state on the face of the earth. The very concept is Utopian and will remain as such, even in countries that are inhabited by 99.9% Muslims. Unless of course you consider the Taliban regime that existed in Afghanistan as the closest to an Islamic state. And Pakistan is still suffering the ghosts unleashed by that period of darkness. Today’s world is too complex and heterogeneous to be governed by a simple set of codes that was formulated for a basic tribal existence. Yes, it can be applied successfully if you reduce today’s communities into that kind of antediluvian existence, which is what Taliban tried to achieve in Afghanistan.Recommend

  • Mohsin Khan

    I am going there tomorrow to offer Namaz.Recommend

  • http://reasonstolovepakistan.blogspot.com/ Asad Zaidi

    Wonderful architecture. May God keep it safe and may we learn to live in harmony. InshAllah there will be a day when every religion would openly worship in their mosques, churches, temples in this country. :)Recommend

  • Tahira

    I studied in Our Lady of Fatima School. Back in those days religious differences were not blown out of proportion for political motives. Or perhaps they were and we did not care. Love the church, the tuck-shop and the blocks ( flats) there. We were thought to be good Muslims without being overbearing and judgmental. I challenge even the Madraasahs here don’t teach Islamiyat the way our teachers did. I still don’t make false promises or care about other people’s properties because of how we were taught in that school. All places of worship must be protected including this great church. Thanks Glenn for bringing back the sweet memories. :)Recommend

  • M. Umar

    May God.ohhh, i am sorry, may Allah protect this beautiful church.

    Churches in pakistan are allowed only to ring the bells three times so not to disturb thy neighbours. However, Mosques can recite Naats, Duas in the middle of the night at thundering sound at larger than life Speakers for as long as they want!!Recommend

  • Tashfeen Kausar

    @Atif:
    Could you provide us with a link or reference as to the claims you made saying that during Tariq Bin Ziyad Era in Spain mosque’s were converted to churches.Recommend

  • Wahab Syaed

    @Gingo:
    Same here mate, Sir Leroy’s place and his auntie’s famaous parathas, may Allah bless her soul.Recommend

  • Wahab Syaed

    @Glen Ryall
    That picture of yours bring back memories. Going to SIr Leroys place after school,and his Auntie feeding us are one of the best memories i have. May Alaah Bless her soul. I think the christian minority in Karachi rocks. It is because of my chrisitian friends that i was compelled to read the Quran in English and understand the beauty of Islam and the similarities that co exisit in our religons….PeaceRecommend

  • Aal

    @Gingo:
    Yes gingo, Leroy is an old friend and a very dedicated teacher from the Fatima Blocks(the residences on the left of the church as you enter which is known as Misquita Blocks/Gardens)Recommend