A lay Catholic who worked as a volunteer security guard outside a Church in Pakistan has been declared the country’s first candidate for sainthood.
Akash Bashir died a martyr at the age of 20 on March 15, 2015, when he prevented a suicide bomber from entering a Catholic church in Pakistan.
Church leaders in Pakistan announced this week that the Vatican has accepted the cause of martyrdom of Akash.
Akash died while trying to prevent a suicide bomber from entering St. John’s Catholic Church where about a thousand people were attending a Sunday celebration.
Akash was born on June 22, 1994 in Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
“He offered his life as a sacrifice to save the lives of the Christian community at St. John’s Catholic Church, Youhanabad, Lahore,” read a statement from Father Francis Gulzar, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Lahore.
“He is the first Pakistani Christian who has been raised to the rank of the Holy People of God,” read the statement.
Akash, an alumnus of Don Bosco Technical Institute, served as a volunteer security guard at St. John’s Catholic Church.
“I will die but I will not let you go in,” he supposedly told the bomber who detonated the explosives, killing himself Akash and two others outside the church.
In a statement following the attack, Pope Francis decried the persecution of Christians in the country.
“Our brothers and sisters are spilling their blood solely because they are Christians,” he said.
The Salesian news agency ANS reported that the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints authorized the Archdiocese of Lahore to open the cause of the martyrdom of Akash on Nov. 9, 2021.