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Longtime Vatican diplomat dies after long illness

VATICAN (SE): Ivan Cardinal Dias, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples before his retirement in 2011, died on June 19 in Rome after a long illness at the age of 81, CNS reported.
 
Pope Francis called the longtime Vatican diplomat, a “wise and gentle pastor” who served the Church and Vatican faithfully for almost five decades.
 
The pope offered his condolences to the Dias family and his prayers to the Catholics of Mumbai, India, where the cardinal was the archbishop from 1996 to 2006 and “where the pastoral concern and broad apostolic vision that marked his service as Archbishop are fondly remembered.”
 
John Cardinal Tong Hon, the bishop of Hong Kong, expressed sympathies and condolences on behalf of the diocese and himself in a June 22 message sent to Oswald Cardinal Gracias, from Mumbai, the head of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, 
 
“He made a great contribution to the universal Church. He had great love for the Church in China. His passing away is such a great loss,” Cardinal Tong wrote.
 
He told the Sunday Examiner, on June 23 that Cardinal Dias was a kind person and that, as an Asian serving at the Holy See “he was an example of the universality of the Church.”
 
Born on 14 April 1936, in Bandra, in Mumbai, Cardinal Dias was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Mumbai in 1958 and received a doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. In 1964, he completed his studies at the Vatican institute for diplomats and was appointed to the Vatican Secretariat of State.
 
He worked for the secretariat’s Eastern Europe desk for nine years at the height of the Cold War and became acquainted with St. John Paul II, then the archbishop of Krakow, Poland.
 
He was chief of the desk that served several former Soviet republics, as well as west African countries and China, and he served at nunciatures in Scandinavia, Indonesia, Madagascar and Mauritius. He was fluent in 17 languages.
 
In 1982, he was ordained an archbishop and sent as apostolic nuncio to Ghana, Togo and Benin. In 1987, he was appointed apostolic nuncio to South Korea, where he worked for four years. 
 
In 1991, he was appointed apostolic nuncio to post-communist Albania, where his task was to rebuild the Church after decades of harshly imposed official atheism.
 
Pope John Paul made him a cardinal in 2001 and Pope Benedict XVI named him prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in 2006.
 
He also helped with the Church’s outreach and support of Catholics, especially clergy, in China. 
 
In a 2010 letter to Chinese bishops and priests in 2010, the cardinal wrote that the greatest danger the Church faces is that which “pollutes the faith and Christian life of her members and communities.”
 
He said that internal division is a sign of the devil at work and that clergy need to be men of prayer and simplicity who show special concern for the poor and needy, including “sheep who do not yet belong to his fold.”
 
His death leaves the College of Cardinals with 220 members, 116 of whom are younger than the age of 80 and therefore eligible to vote in a conclave to elect a new pope. 
 
On June 28, Pope Francis elevated an additional five men under the age of 80 to the College of Cardinals who will be eligible to vote.

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