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Pakistan’s oldest priest passes away at 97

Father Melito Dias died in Karachi due to old age complications
Father Melito Dias, the oldest Christian clergy in Pakistan, is seen in this file image. The Catholic priest passed away on April 18 at the age of 97.

Father Melito Dias, the oldest Christian clergy in Pakistan, is seen in this file image. The Catholic priest passed away on April 18 at the age of 97. (Photo: Good News Catholic TV)

Published: April 20, 2024 05:22 AM GMT
Updated: April 20, 2024 06:05 AM GMT

Christians and Muslims paid tributes to Father Melito Dias, the oldest Christian clergy in Pakistan, who passed away on April 18 at the age of 97.

Dias died at the Holy Family Hospital in Karachi due to old age complications, the Pakistani Catholic bishops’ National Commission for Justice and Peace (NCJP) confirmed on April 19.

Born in Karachi, the capital of Sindh Province, on Feb. 27, 1921, Dias studied at Church-run St. Patrick’s High School. He was ordained a priest on Aug. 24, 1954, in Kandy city of Sri Lanka with permission from Karachi Catholic Archdiocese.

He was first posted at the Minor Seminary at Quetta in Balochistan province and then at St. Patrick’s High School, his alma mater. He also served the parish of St. Joseph’s in Sindh’s Larkana city.

An ardent fan of Pakistan’s national sport, field hockey, Dias was selected to play for the Sindh Provincial Hockey team during his days as a student at St. Patrick’s High School.

However, Dias decided to move to Sri Lanka for missionary experience instead of traveling to India with the hockey team to play a tournament.

After retuning to Pakistan from Sri Lanka, Dias taught in several schools including the Quetta Grammar School, St. Patrick’s High School in Karachi and St. Lawrence’s School.

He was head hockey coach during his stint with St. Patrick’s High School, mentoring students into budding athletes. 

His demise saddened the Muslim and Christian fraternities.

“He was a very kind and sensible person,” Reverend Salman Babar, an Anglican priest at the Archdiocese of Karachi and Balochistan, told UCA News.

“He mainly focused on ensuring that Christian children got educated and was always there to help us out in admissions or whatever issues we faced related to education,” he said.

Babar termed his death "an irreparable loss" for the minority Christian community.

Dr. Tahir Ashrafi, chairman of the Pakistan Ulema Council, a top Islamic body, mourned his death.

“He will be remembered for the many years that he served his community,” Ashrafi said.

Kashif Anthony, Karachi diocesan coordinator for the NCJP, hailed Dias as a “gem of a person” who was instrumental in motivating people. 

“Father Melito Dias was a friendly man and sitting and talking to him for even a few minutes gave one inner peace and encouragement,” Anthony told UCA News. “He was really a gem, and his life was, and will be, a motivation for many.”

A funeral Mass for Dias is scheduled to be held at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi on April 20 morning.

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DR.CAJETAN COELHO
Respectful farewell to the Reverend Melito Dias. In Paradisum Deducant te Angeli.
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