US nuncio, a good listener

Italian Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Vatican nuncio to the United States, died late late last month in Baltimore at the age of 73.

On July 22, the apostolic nunciature in Washington announced that the archbishop had been "placed on assisted ventilation to attempt recovery of his lung function" two weeks after undergoing "a delicate lung surgery." 

A veteran Vatican diplomat, Archbishop Pietro Sambi was appointed as US nuncio in December 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to the US appointment, he had been nuncio to Israel and Cyprus; he was the second Vatican ambassador to Israel, after the Vatican and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1994.

After he arrived in the United States in 2006, he said in an interview with Catholic News Service in Washington that he was impressed by the vitality of US Catholicism, the level of weekly Mass attendance among US Catholics and their generosity toward others.

The archbishop was known for his warm and affable manner, sense of humour and being open and ready to listen to people.

Archbishop Sambi, a native of central Italy, was ordained to the priesthood in 1964. He was named an archbishop and nuncio to Burundi in 1985, a position he held for six years until being named nuncio to Indonesia. In 1998, Pope John Paul II named him nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.

In one address, the archbishop pointed out the challenges faced by today's priests and religious orders. He called the clergy abuse scandal "a horrible experience which has deprived all of us of our credibility before our faithful and before society."

At the 2007 convention of the National Catholic Educational Association, he called teachers "the greatest artists of the world ... because you sculpt the best of what you are, not in a piece of marble but in human beings who are the glory of God."

"Each of us has forgotten a lot of what we were told in school," he added, "but a lot of what's inside is from the example of teachers."

In all his previous diplomatic posts from the Vatican, he said, he found that what is essential is faith in Jesus and the Gospel message of his resurrection.

FULL OBITUARY: Archbishop Sambi, US nuncio since early 2006, dies at age 73 (Catholic News Service)

LINKS:

Archbishop Pietro Sambi (catholic-hierarchy.org)

The Passing of Archbishop Sambi (Cardinal Sean’s Blog)

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican Envoy, Dies at 73 (New York Times)

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