03 April 2012

Columban priest given Pakistan's highest civilian award for foreign nationals

Fr Robert McCulloch with his Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam award

Pakistan's highest civilian award for foreign nationals, the Sitara-e-Quaid-Azam was presented to Fr Robert McCulloch by the Governor of Sindh, Dr Ishrat ul Ebad Khan, on 23 March, Pakistan Day, at Government House in Karachi.

Governor Ishrat ul Ebal Khan of Sindh conferring the award on Fr McCulloch

The award was given by President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan to Fr McCulloch in recognition of his 34 years of service and contribution to Pakistan in education, health, and inter-faith relations. An Australia, the awardee worked in Mindanao, Philippines, from 1971 until 1978 when he was part of the pioneering group of Columbans to go to Pakistan. He recently moved to Rome as Procurator General of the Columbans.

Fr McCulloch, left, with Bishop Max Rodrigues of Hyderabad and James Francis, Administrator of St Elizabeth Hospital

A reception was held on 26 March at St Elizabeth Hospital where Fr McCulloch is Chairman of the Administrative Council. Among those present was MNA (Member of the National Assembly) Tayyab Hussain who praised the work of St Elizabeth Hospital under the leadership of Fr McCulloch. He said that the hospital was an outstanding beacon of compassion in Hyderabad especially through its medical outreach programmes, palliative care for the terminally ill, and flood relief activities. He held up St Elizabeth Hospital as an example to other institutions in Hyderabad and Pakistan of how people of different faiths, cultures and languages can work together for the betterment and progress of Pakistan and its people. 
Muhammad Ali Jinnah, 'Quaid-e-Azam' (1876-1948)
Fr McCulloch said that he was personally honoured in being awarded the Sitara-e-Quaid-Azam by the President and receiving it from the Governor of Sindh, Dr Ishrat ul Ibad. He said that the award also showed that the government of Pakistan recognized the presence and work of the Catholic Church throughout Pakistan and in interior Sindh. Fr McCulloch said he was proud to receive an award which carried the name of the Quaid-e-Azam who founded Pakistan to be a nation based upon principles of unity, equality, and religious harmony. (Sitara-e-Quaid-e-Azam means 'Star of the Great Leader'. This is in honour of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan).

At Governor's House Karachi after investitute: Syed Tayyab Hussain [MNA for Hyderabad], Fr Tomás  King [Columban Coordinator in Pakistan], Fr Robert McCulloch, Deacon Gulshan Barkat, James Francis [administrator St Elizabeth Hospital], Dr Tariq Arshad [Deputy Medical Superintendent SEH]

Floods have played a major part in the history of the Columbans, those in China in the 1930s that affected millions, those in Mindanao last December and, currently, in Fiji. Last October St Elizabeth Hospital was flooded.

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