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Italian missionary to Bangladesh, Paolo Ciceri, dies at 80

Father Paolo Ciceri, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (Photo courtesy of the Institute).

An Italian priest who was a missionary for over four decades in Bangladesh died at Rancio di Lecco in Italy on November 9. He was 80.

Father Paolo Ciceri, a member of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), worked in Bangladesh, primarily among the poor and ethnic minorities.

Arriving in Bangladesh in 1973, he spent the best 44 years of his life as a missionary in Bangladesh, especially in the Rajshahi and Dinajpur dioceses in the northern part of the country. He left Bangladesh in 2017 for medical treatment in Italy.

The priest made a unique contribution to the Bangladeshi church through socio-economic development and infrastructural fields for all the tribal people of the country.

Father Corti Pierfrancesco, who was working with him as an assistant priest, said, "I spent my first three years in Bangladesh and then the last five with Fr. Paolo Ciceri. I have the impression that I have been living with a living saint for the past eight years. He was a saint who ascended to heaven last week."

"I saw his faith in Jesus, who had called him to be a priest and missionary. I cannot imagine how much passion he put into prayer, in the Eucharist, in confession, in the preparation of homilies, and in the retreats that he organized on every occasion for the people of his parish," said Pierfrancesco, a PIME priest.

"This is my eyewitness account of how his faith became flesh, visible, and palpable in love for those in need. In Bangladesh, for the tribals who migrated to the city of Rajshahi and were frowned upon and despised by others, Father Ciceri bought the first piece of land to welcome these people, then to build schools in these villages, and to treat sick people," said Pierfrancesco.

"The problems of the needy and poor people became his own problems, and he always tried to resolve their concerns. How many people he helped, how many people he saved, how many people received his own blood that he donated as if it were water, and how many boys and girls were able to study and find a job, we all know this. That is why I say Father Ciceri is one of the living saints among us," said the PIME priest.

"So, today I give thanks to God for his dedicated life and good work for the people. He never tired, was always united to Jesus Christ, and was ever united to the poor by his charitable works," said Pierfrancesco.

Paolo Ciceri was born on November 25, 1942, in the Monte Siro District of Milan, Italy.

At the age of 12, he joined the Opera Don Folci seminary in Vatican City. He left three years later to join the Milan diocesan seminary.

He was ordained a priest for the Milan Archdiocese on June 28, 1967.

After five years of work in the diocese in 1971, he joined Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) to become a missionary.

He arrived in Bangladesh in 1973 and served there until 2017.

Since 2005, Father Ciceri had been suffering from various illnesses, including liver problems, before he was moved to Italy in 2017 for medical treatment. 

During this time, Father Ciceri worked for the socio-economic development of poor indigenous communities.

He built many Christian villages by buying land and bringing together Catholics who were scattered in the area. He also built houses for the homeless.

He also built schools in each village to educate the children. He financed the higher education of many students after they completed the secondary school level.

Kathleen Biswas, one of the school teachers, said, "Today, I am a good teacher because of Father Ciceri’s financial support and his good guidance. I always remember him in my prayers because I used to believe that Father Ciceri was an angel."

"He supported the poor students and also needy families, took care of the sick, and sent them to the hospital for better treatment," said Biswas.

Bangladesh's ethnic people remember him with respect and love for his good work. - Nikhil Gomes


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