Pakistan’s Mother Teresa to have a state funeral

The government of Pakistan will hold a state funeral on 19 August for “Pakistan’s Mother Teresa” – a German nun who devoted her life to eradicating Hansen’s disease (leprosy).

Sister Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau, who was a member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary died last week at the age of 87.

Pakistani leaders mourned her death, praising Pfau who was both a doctor and religious sister, for her contributions in fighting the disfiguring disease that usually leads to its victims being ostracised.

“Sister Ruth was a model of total dedication. She inspired and mobilised all sections of society to join the fight against leprosy, irrespective of creed or ethnic identity,” says Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi.

“We are happy that the government is according her a state funeral”.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi says Ruth, who became a citizen of Pakistan, would be remembered “for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism.

“Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan,” he said.

Ruth, who had studied medicine in France, founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi. It was Pakistan’s first hospital dedicated to treating Hansen’s disease.

She later set up branches in all provinces of Pakistan.

In 1996, the World Health Organization declared Pakistan one of the first countries in Asia to be free of Hansen’s disease. In 2016 the number being treated for the disease in Pakistan had fallen from over 19,000 in the 1980’s to 531.


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