08/12/2021, 14.33
BANGLADESH
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Fr Berutti, founder of the banks of the poor, dies

by Sumon Corraya

The PIME missionary was moved to the capital, but died from complications due to COVID-19 and age. He is remembered for creating credit unions, and bringing socio-economic development to the Diocese of Dinajpur, in the north of the country. Five PIME missionaries have contracted the viral disease.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Fr Giulio Berutti, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute of Foreign Missions (PIME), died yesterday due to complications from COVID-19. He was 77.

In order to provide him with better care, he was moved from Dinajpur to the capital, Bishop Sebastian Tudu of Dinajpur said. He was eventually “Discharged from the hospital,” and “stayed at the PIME house in Dhaka.” But “After three days he got sick again.”

Originally from Busto Arsizio (northern Italy), Fr Giulio was ordained priest on 27 June 1970. He arrived in Bangladesh right after the country’s War of independence.

One of his main accomplishments was the establishment of cooperative credit unions in every parish of the Diocese of Dinajpur. These institutions offer loans with an annual interest rate of no more than 12 per cent, half that of traditional banks and much less than the Grameen Bank of Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus.

Credit unions are meant to help primarily but not exclusively tribal communities. Thanks to these “banks for the poor”, many people have managed to “start a small business, buy a house or pay for their children's higher education,” Bishop Tudu said.

In the whole diocese, there are 20 credit unions of this type today.

Fr Berutti also created the country's first Catholic nursing facility, the St Vincent Nursing Institute, and introduced health insurance.

“Fr Giulio was thinking about how to improve the socio-economic condition of the people,” Bishop Tudu said. “He was an exemplary missionary; his life inspired us.”

During his time in Bangladesh, the PIME missionary also served as pastor in Mariampur, Nijpara and Pathorghata.

He was also director of the Novara technical school and served at the Dhanjuri Leprosy Centre and the St Vincent Hospital. He will be buried tomorrow in Dinajpur Cathedral.

In Bangladesh, four other PIME missionaries contracted COVID-19; two have recovered while the other two are still in hospital.

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