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Experienced diplomat, Indian Cardinal Dias dies at 81


Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias, a longtime diplomat who was fluent in 17 languages, died June 19 at age 81 in Rome after a long illness. He is pictured in a 2011 photo. (CNS photo/Kham, Reuters)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A longtime diplomat and fluent in 17 languages, Indian Cardinal Ivan Dias died June 19 in Rome after a long illness. He was 81.

Pope Francis called the cardinal a "wise and gentle pastor" who served the church and Vatican faithfully.

In a telegram to the cardinal's brother, Francis Dias, the pope recalled the particularly important contribution Cardinal Dias made "to the spiritual and physical reconstruction of the suffering church in Albania and the missionary zeal demonstrated in his work as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples."

The pope offered his condolences to the Dias family and his prayers to the Catholics of Mumbai, "where the pastoral concern and broad apostolic vision that marked his service as Archbishop are fondly remembered."

Cardinal Dias served as prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples before his retirement in 2011 and served as archbishop of Mumbai from 1996 to 2006.

His faith and 39 years in the Vatican's diplomatic service, he said, taught him to avoid confrontation and solve problems through dialogue and fostering goodwill.

But that did not stop him from clearly asserting the rights of Catholics in India and elsewhere to worship freely, to serve the poor and needy and to invite others to join the Catholic Church.

In his preaching and teaching, Cardinal Dias liked to combine quotes from Scripture with everyday images.

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