Aldino Amato, a respected Italian-born Dominican priest, died after contracting the coronavirus at a hospital in Lahore, the UCA News (Union of Catholic Asian News) portal reported on Monday.
The 90-year-old priest was laid to rest in a grave he built for himself in the compound of Our Lady of Mercy parish house in Punjab’s Okara 6 Chak village.
An education and development pioneer, Amato served Pakistan for nearly six decades.
Amato, the last foreign missionary of the Faisalabad Diocese, passed away on May 1 in Lahore, where he was put on a ventilator for 10 days after testing positive for Covid-19.
During his funeral, hundreds of faithful showered petals on his coffin but only Dominican friars were allowed to shoulder him, according to UCA News.
More than 20 priests concelebrated the funeral Mass with Bishop Indrias Rehmat of Faisalabad at the girls’ college Amato built in the Okara village. Condolences were also conveyed by members of the Catholic community as well as Archbishop Christophe Zakhia El-Kassis, the apostolic nuncio to Pakistan.
After arriving in Pakistan as a missionary in 1962, Amato built six churches, three schools and hostels, two training centres for the visually impaired, two housing colonies, and a women’s college.
He was revered for having spent funds in remote areas and turning them into settlements, and helping the poor irrespective of their faith. He also installed tube wells and provided skills training to children in his hotel.
Bishop Rehmat said Amato “shared to the full our sorrows and joys, and his death here in Pakistan was a testament to the commitment with which he gave his whole life to our people”, according to AsiaNews.it.
Pakistan is struggling to contain a third wave of coronavirus infections, with more than 800,000 cases and 18,000 deaths declared and only a fraction of the population having been vaccinated.
Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar on Sunday said the next two weeks are “critical”, as health authorities rushed to increase intensive care capacity.