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Iconic Italian missionary dies of Covid-19 in Pakistan

Dominican priest Aldino Amato was the last foreign missionary of Faisalabad Diocese

Iconic Italian missionary dies of Covid-19 in Pakistan

Father Aldino Amato at Our Lady of Mercy parish house in Okara 6 Chak in December 2017. (Photo: Kamran Chaudhry/UCA News)

Catholics in Pakistan are mourning Italian Dominican priest Aldino Amato, a revered development pioneer and educationist who served Pakistan for almost six decades.

The last foreign missionary of Faisalabad Diocese died on May 1 at a hospital in Lahore. He was on a ventilator for 10 days after contracting Covid-19. The 90-year-old was buried in a grave he built for himself in the compound of Our Lady of Mercy parish house in Okara 6 Chak (village) of Punjab province.

“Please don’t touch or join the funeral procession. Only Dominican friars will shoulder him,” announced priests as hundreds of faithful showered petals on the coffin.

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More than 20 priests concelebrated the funeral Mass with Bishop Indrias Rehmat of Faisalabad at the girls’ college Father Amato built in the village.

“He happily spent money in remote areas and turned them into settlements. The Pakistani Church will always remember him. He was a humble sufi who silently distributed education and mercy. While our community has a trend of settling abroad, the legendary missionary adopted our values and the poor,” said Bishop Rehmat.  

Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, the apostolic nuncio to Pakistan, also sent condolences for the good shepherd.

He was a supporter of the poor irrespective of their faith

Since arriving in Pakistan in 1962, Father Amato had built six churches, three schools (equipped with computer labs) and hostels, two training centers for the blind, two housing colonies and a women’s college.

He offered training in hosiery/carpet weaving machines as well as courses on carpentry and tailoring to the children in his hostel. He also managed several adult education centers for the villagers.

Dominican Father Iftikhar Moon chronicled Father Amato’s services in Mard-e-Ahan (The Iron Man), a book published in 2006.  Several laypersons and priests shared their reflections in the book published on the 50th anniversary of the Dominican becoming a priest.

“He was a supporter of the poor irrespective of their faith. He used to gather children from their homes to attend school and inquire after those who took leave. People used to consult him in crisis, while several families got free monthly rations from shops. By planting tube wells, he turned forests into colonies,” said Father Younas Shahzad, Dominican prior vice provincial of Ibn-e-Mariyam.

“Students are coming from surrounding cities to study his village-based college. It is a challenge for Dominicans to continue the services of the legendary missionary. We salute him.”

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