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A dedicated bishop in any language

After 50 years in the priesthood, polyglot Archbishop Evarist Pinto is still going strong at 84

Ayyaz Gulzar, Karachi

Ayyaz Gulzar, Karachi

Published: February 08, 2018 10:41 AM GMT

Updated: February 08, 2018 11:03 AM GMT

A dedicated bishop in any language

Archbishop Evarist Pinto says the Catholic Church in Pakistan is very beautiful, multilingual and multicultural. (Photo supplied)

Archbishop Evarist Pinto spends most of his time writing books and reading the Holy Bible. The emeritus archbishop of Karachi is a renowned biblical scholar.

Even at 84, the author of 31 books in English spends the early part of each day on his writing work. Many of his books have been translated into Urdu, the lingua franca of Pakistan. 

This remarkable polyglot can easily communicate in 25 languages and is fluent in Urdu, English, Latin, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Punjabi, Konkani, Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Archbishop Pinto holds a doctorate degree in biblical theology from the Biblicum Institute of the Urbano University in Rome and for the past four decades has served as a professor at the National Catholic Institute of Theology in Pakistan.

His great efforts and leadership in 2007 allowed Pakistani Catholics to hold and recite the first computerized version of the Bible in Urdu.

"I am continuing with all my activities except the diocesan administration. I am teaching in both seminaries in the diocese, continuing to study scriptures to bring them to people and to write books," Archbishop Pinto said.

"I am also travelling nationally and internationally to conduct Bible study programs, formation programs and retreats for religious and lay groups and to conduct retreats for priests and nuns and various lay groups in the country."

Over the past four decades, the archbishop's articles have been published in The Christian Voice, the weekly English newspaper of Karachi Archdiocese. He has also penned many articles for international magazines of the Catholic Church.

Early life and education

Born in Goa on Dec. 31, 1933, Archbishop Pinto was the youngest of his siblings. He studied at St. Thomas High School affiliated to the University of Bombay.

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At the time of the partition of India, his family members were well settled in Goa, Bombay and Karachi. After completing his studies in Goa, he served in a British bank, Lloyds, in Karachi for eight years from 1952 to 1960.

"While attending an exhibition program of religious groups in 1960, I got a small booklet about vocation and that was the first time I thought of becoming a priest," Archbishop Pinto recalled.

In 1960, he entered the St. Pius X Minor Seminary in Quetta and then studied in Christ the King Seminary, Karachi, the national seminary of Pakistan, to complete philosophical and theological studies from 1962 until 1968.

The first Pakistani cardinal, Joseph Cordeiro, then archbishop of Karachi, ordained him to the priesthood in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Karachi, on Jan. 6, 1968, and a year later the cardinal sent him to study at Urbano University in Rome to do licentiates in theology and scriptures from 1969 until 1973.

In 1979, he went to Rome again to complete his doctorate in biblical theology from the Biblicum Institute.

Services as a priest and archbishop

In 1973, Archbishop Pinto, then a priest, was appointed as a professor of scriptures at Christ the King Seminary as well as a librarian and was given responsibility to head the Pontifical Mission Societies as a director in Karachi Archdiocese.

"I was appointed as a dean of studies and a professor for spirituality at Christ the King Seminary in 1983 to serve until 1987 when I was posted to St. Lawrence's Parish. I served there for six years before being transferred to St. Paul's Parish and serving there for six years," he said.

On Feb. 17, 2000, St. Pope John Paul II appointed him auxiliary bishop of the Karachi Archdiocese. He was consecrated as a bishop on April 25, 2000, by Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, then the papal nuncio to Pakistan. He fully took office as archbishop on Jan. 5, 2004, and served at the same rank until Jan. 25, 2012.

"I had the privilege to serve Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II as an altar server during my stay in Rome as a student. As archbishop of Karachi, I met Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI during ad limina meetings," he said.    

"When I was ordained as a priest, the focus of the church was to work to implement the teachings of the Vatican Council II," Archbishop Pinto said.

"It's a huge blessing of God that he chose me to serve as his priest. I have experienced the transition phase from pre-Vatican to post-Vatican. Then another phase was to welcome migrants, people coming to Karachi for jobs with families.

"Our priests and catechists worked very hard to catechize people and implement the teachings as per the documents of Vatican Council II. And being a priest and a bishop, I too worked to implement it by bringing the Word of God closer to the faithful and helping lay people to become leaders in various ministries of the church.

"As per my motto 'Go and make disciples,' I worked to promote the teachings of the Vatican Council II and to strengthen the church by forming and developing various commissions and lay groups.

"During my pastoral visits to parishes, I worked to let people know that my clergy and I were with them and always present to serve the faithful.

"Another dream was to build a new minor seminary in the diocese with more appropriate facilities. I am thankful to God and my clergy that we were able to construct it in 2011."

Catholic Church in Karachi

Archbishop Pinto said the church in Karachi had grown very quickly and new communities were flourishing.

"Immediately after Pakistan's independence, the church started focusing on people from various cultures, especially from south India," he said.

"Karachi is a cosmopolitan city with many south Indian and Punjabi people. Different languages and cultures are giving the church in Karachi a cosmopolitan face. The church in Karachi has extended very quickly. Communities are flourishing, which is a positive sign for the church.

"The church in Pakistan is very beautiful, multilingual and multicultural. People from various ethnic backgrounds, nations and cultures are making our church beautiful.

"The major challenges include a shortage of priests, but I appreciate the priests working very hard and the catechists for their extraordinary support as the helping hands of our priests."

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