By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At the end of the funeral for Italian Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the former nuncio to the United States, a Vatican official confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI had been planning to bring the archbishop back to Rome to take up an important post at the Vatican.
Archbishop Giovanni Becciu, who holds the No. 3 position at the Vatican Secretariat of State, said Aug. 2, “The Holy Father wanted to recognize the valid work carried out by his Excellency Msgr. Sambi, especially in the last few years, by calling him to an important position in the Roman curia. But the Lord, in his inscrutable plan, wanted to call this good and faithful servant home.”
Earlier in the summer, Italian media reported Pope Benedict would be giving Archbishop Sambi a Vatican position that would guarantee he would become a cardinal at the next consistory.
The funeral Mass for Archbishop Sambi, 73, who died July 27 at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, was celebrated in a sunny public square in his hometown, Sogliano al Rubicone.
Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini presided over the Mass and over the archbishop’s burial near his parents in the town cemetery.
The funeral Mass began with the reading of a telegram of condolence from Pope Benedict XVI, who said the archbishop had given “generous service to the Holy See in different countries” during his long service as a Vatican diplomat.
The pope praised the archbishop’s “diligent diplomatic and pastoral activity,” especially “in the Holy Land and, most recently, in the United States where he worked wisely, revealing the giftedness of his intellect and his heart.”
During the homily, Bishop Lambiasi said Archbishop Sambi was a man who lived the values of mercy, faith and mission.
The bishop read from a spiritual testament Archbishop Sambi had written in May and told mourners, “the password to enter into his spiritual testament is ‘mercy,'” because the archbishop’s life was “the story of mercy received and given.”
Speaking at the end of the Mass, Archbishop Becciu expressed his condolences to Archbishop Sambi’s family and to the people of Sogliano al Rubicone, “where he took the first steps of his human and Christian journey,” and to the Diocese of Rimini “where he was formed spiritually and culturally and from where he departed to go to different nations as ambassador of the pope and messenger of the justice and peace of the Gospel.”
He said the archbishop dedicated his entire life to serving God and the church, “working in many difficult places to bring the concern of the church and to share the mysteries of redemption with different peoples, always with an authentic priestly spirit and joyful availability.”
While he worked in Cameroon, Cuba, Algeria and Nicaragua, among other places, the archbishop is best known for “his capable and diligent activity as apostolic nuncio in the Holy Land and in the United States of America, undertaken in difficult times and in complex and delicate social and ecclesial circumstances,” he said.
No matter how difficult the challenge, Archbishop Sambi “showed he was a man of firm and profound faith, a zealous and fervent pastor,” Archbishop Becciu said.
Memorial Mass for nuncio will be celebrated Sept. 14 at national shrine
By Catholic News Service
WASHINGTON (CNS) — A memorial Mass for Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died July 27, will be celebrated Sept. 14 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be the main celebrant of the noon Mass, according to an Aug. 1 announcement by the USCCB.
The 73-year-old Italian archbishop, apostolic nuncio to the United States since February 2006, died at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore from complications related to lung surgery performed approximately three weeks earlier.
On July 29 and 30, his body lay in state at the apostolic nunciature in Washington and then was transported to Italy for funeral services.
His body arrived at the airport in Rimini, Italy, the morning of July 31 and was taken to the parish church in his hometown, Sogliano al Rubicone, where a prayer service was held that evening and another was scheduled for Aug. 1.
The Church of St. Lawrence was to be open for mourners to pay their respects until the funeral Mass Aug. 2.
In Washington, the memorial Mass will be on the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross and will coincide with the fall meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee. Bishops from around the country will concelebrate, including Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.
Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d’affaires at the apostolic nunciature, also will be a concelebrant.
In a July 28 memo to the bishops, Archbishop Dolan said the Mass for Archbishop Sambi will be an opportunity to express “gratitude for his priestly example and timeless service to the Holy Father and to the church.”
The Mass also will be an opportunity for the diplomatic corps to pay its respects to Archbishop Sambi. As Vatican ambassador to the United States, he was a member of the corps.
In a separate statement, Msgr. Walter Rossi, the shrine’s rector, said the late archbishop was a familiar face at the national shrine, serving as the celebrant and homilist for Christmas, Easter and other church feast days.
He said the shrine is honored to be the site of the memorial Mass because “in many respects the national shrine serves as the nuncio’s cathedral.”
Archbishop Sambi was “everything you would want in a bishop and priest,” Msgr. Rossi said. “He was kind, gentle, tough when he had to be, a deeply spiritual man, a well-educated man, the consummate diplomat and a priest with … a great sense of care and responsibility for the people.”
“I consider myself blessed to call Archbishop Sambi a friend and although he is no longer physically present with us, I am confident that together with the church in the United States, I have a friend in heaven,” Msgr. Rossi said.
“As Archbishop Sambi carefully watched over the church in the United States during the past five years, I trust he will continue to watch over us and intercede before God on our behalf,” the priest added.
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