A German Sister known as the Mother Teresa of Pakistan has died aged 87.

Sister Ruth Katharina Martha Pfau, a member of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, devoted her life to eradicating leprosy in Pakistan.

Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, president of the bishops’ conference, said she would be given a state funeral.

“Sister Ruth was a model of total dedication. She inspired and mobilised all sections of society to join the fight against leprosy, irrespective of creed or ethnic identity,” he said.

Pakistan’s prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said Sr Ruth would be remembered “for her courage, her loyalty, her service to the eradication of leprosy, and most of all, her patriotism”. She “may have been born in Germany [but] her heart was always in Pakistan,” he said.

Born in Leipzig in 1929, Sr Ruth went to France to study medicine and later joined the Society of Daughters of the Heart of Mary. Archbishop Coutts said she arrived in Karachi in 1960 owing to visa problems en route to India, and was touched by what she saw at the leprosy colony in the city. Two years later she founded the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre in Karachi, Pakistan’s first hospital dedicated to treating Hansen’s disease, and later set up branches in all provinces of Pakistan. She spent the rest of her life in the country and was granted Pakistani citizenship.

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