Sister Pfau, German Nun Renowned for Treating Pakistan's Lepers, Dies at 87

Modesto Morganelli
Agosto 12, 2017

He said before Dr Pfau's death, it had been decided that her funeral would be held on the second Saturday after her demise, as people from Pakistan and from overseas were expected to attend.

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Thursday announced a state funeral for Dr Ruth Pfau, a symbol of selflessness and devotion to leprosy patients, who passed away earlier today at the age of 87.

Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussein said Sister Ruth's dedication to ending leprosy in Pakistan "cannot be forgotten".

It was around fifty seven years ago when a young and charming German lady came to Pakistan and experienced the plight of leprosy patients.

Pakistan has been home to the gems like Dr Ruth Pfau and Abdul Sattar Edhi who dedicated their lives for the welfare of the people of Pakistan.

Hundreds and thousands of admirers of Dr. Ruth Pfau are in great shock even the Canary bird, caged outside her room is silent. "He crawled on hands and feet into this dispensary, acting as if this was quite normal, as if someone has to crawl there through that slime and dirt on hands and feet, like a dog". She convinced the government and then bosses of the health care management system to start a National Leprosy Control Programme in partnership with Marie Adelaide Leprosy Center (MALC).

She studied medicine at universities in Mainz and Marburg before joining the Catholic order of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, the organization that sent her overseas as a missionary. After the war, her family escaped the communist regime in East Germany and moved to West Germany, where Sister Pfau studied medicine.

"When you receive such a calling, you can not turn it down, for it is not you who has made the choice", she told the Express Tribune. Since 1996, the World Health Organization has considered the disease controlled in Pakistan.

"Well if it doesn't hit you the first time, I don't think it will ever hit you", she told the BBC in 2010 about her first encounter with leprosy.

"The most important thing is that we give them their dignity back", she told the BBC at the time. The Dawn daily reported in 2016 that the number of those under treatment for leprosy fell to 531 from more than 19,000 in the 1980s.

As a young physician and nun, she had planned to begin her missionary work not in Pakistan, but in India, in 1960.

"It was due to her endless struggle that Pakistan defeated leprosy", the German Consulate in Karachi posted on Facebook after learning of Sister Pfau's death.

"We are happy that the government is according her a state funeral on August 19", the archbishop said, noting it would be at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Karachi. It said her services for humanity "were nothing less than a pure manifestation of God's divine love".

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