Hundreds attend funeral in Karachi for country’s oldest priest

Published April 21, 2024
Friends pay their last respects to Rev Fr Melito Dias at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday.—Kurt Menezes / White Star
Friends pay their last respects to Rev Fr Melito Dias at St Patrick’s Cathedral on Saturday.—Kurt Menezes / White Star

KARACHI: Reverend Father Melito Dias, the oldest priest in Pakistan, who had passed away peacefully at the Holy Family Hospital on Thursday at the age of 97, was laid to rest at the Christian Cemetery here on Saturday.

The priest’s funeral at the St Patrick’s Cathedral, led by the Archbishop of Karachi Benny Mario Travas, was attended by Cardinal Joseph Coutts, priests, nuns, his family, religious friends and a large number of people whose lives he touched throughout his 69 years of priestly ministry. During this while he also served in the educational institutions of the Archdiocese of Karachi with important posts and responsibilities.

Born in Karachi on February 27, 1927 to Maria Amata and Joseph Edward Dias, he was the fifth among nine children. From an early age his mother had a great influence on his religious upbringing as she was very close to the church and Catholic teachings. His father worked abroad for a UK-based cable and wireless company in Bahrain.

Rev Fr Melito was educated at the St Patrick’s High School in Karachi and was a star of the school’s hockey team. He was also a regular church-goer, never missing the first mass on a daily basis.

In 1946, Fr Melito left for the Papal Seminary at Kandy in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as this part of the world did not have its own seminary at that time. In Kandy, he not only proved to be a good student but also won the hearts of his teachers and fellow students by his dedication to studies and sports.

He was ordained on August 24, 1954 at Kandy by Bishop Glennie, an American Jesuit who later became the Bishop of Trincomalee, Ceylon.

He returned to Karachi, which by then was part of a new nation — Pakistan. He came back without a passport as he had left when all areas of the Subcontinent were part of India. His first posting was at the Minor Seminary at Quetta where Rev Fr Joseph Cordeiro was the Rector and was also assigned to St Francis’ Grammar School where he coached the boys in hockey.

He then went on to serve the people of Karachi in various parishes. He also served the parish of St Joseph’s, Larkana and was instrumental in the faith formation of many in the area.

Besides his priestly duties, Fr Melito was also a fine educationist and served many Catholic schools in Karachi such as St Patrick’s, St Paul’s and St Lawrence’s in various capacities. Needless to say, he carried out all his duties with distinction and was known for his kindness, compassion, understanding, friendly nature and humbleness. He also possessed a great sense of subtle humour.

Lately, Fr Melito had been in-and-out of the hospital. He came back to the presbytery in February where he celebrated his 97th birthday in a simple yet joyous atmosphere where he fully enjoyed himself.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2024

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