Sister Ruth Pfau, a German member of the Congregation of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, died in Pakistan at the age of 87.

ruth pfau

Sister Ruth was known as Pakistan’s “Mother Teresa”. Trained as a medical doctor, she devoted decades of her life to assisting the Asian country’s leprosy victims. She was a Pakistani citizen and had received the nation’s highest awards. She was mourned by the country’s leaders. “Pfau may have been born in Germany, her heart was always in Pakistan,” Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said in a statement.

Sister Ruth was born in Leipzig in 1929, but her childhood home was destroyed by bombing during World War II. After the war, her family escaped the communist regime in East Germany and moved to West Germany, where Sister Pfau studied medicine. After joining the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, Sister Pfau was sent to India to join a mission in 1960. On her way there, she was held up due to visa issues for some time in Karachi, where she first encountered leprosy, an infectious disease that causes severe, disfiguring skin sores and nerve damage in the arms, legs, and skin areas around the body.

Sister Pfau trained numerous doctors in the treatment of leprosy, and in 1996 the World Health Organization declared that leprosy had been controlled in the country. She was also known for rescuing children with leprosy, who had been banished to caves and cattle pens for years by their parents, who were afraid of contracting the disease themselves.

Sister Pfau’s funeral is scheduled for Aug. 19 at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Karachi, and she will be buried at the Christian cemetery in the city.