U.S. Papal Nuncio Succumbs to Complications Following Lung Surgery

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, 73, passed away Wednesday evening at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore from complications following lung surgery.

CatholicOnline.com is reporting that Sambi’s sister, niece, and nephew flew in from Italy to be with him at the time of his death.

The Archbishop, who was fluent in English, Spanish and French, was born in central Italy and was ordained to the priesthood in 1964. He began his diplomatic career for the Church in 1969 and served in Cameroon, Jerusalem, Cuba, Algeria, Nicaragua, Belgium, and India. He was consecrated a bishop and named as pro-nuncio to Burundi in 1985. In 1991, Pope John Paul II appointed him as nuncio to Indonesia where he served for seven years before being moved to Israel and Cyprus. In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI named him as apostolic nuncio to the United States. 

The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, issued a statement after hearing of the Archbishop’s passing.

“As the personal representative of our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Sambi enjoyed the highest respect and deepest affection of the bishops of the United States and of our Catholic people.

“(He) was a friend of the United States in so many ways. He travelled throughout the country, often to attend the ordination of bishops, always eager to meet the faithful, and to share with them the affection that the Holy Father has for them and their country. 

“Archbishop Sambi possessed both a keen sense of diplomacy cultivated through many years of service in the Vatican diplomatic corps, especially in Israel, and a pastoral sensitivity cultivated through his many years as a faithful and devoted priest.   Those who met or listened to Archbishop Sambi understood that at the heart of all he did was this love of the priesthood and of Christ the Good Shepherd.”

Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, stated, “On behalf of our entire Priests for Life team, I want to express gratitude for the work that the Archbishop did in being the Holy Father’s representative in the United States. In addition to his many responsibilities, which he carried out with great fidelity and joy, he also followed our work with great interest. In the conversations I had with him regularly at the U.S. bishops’ meetings, he was always a great encouragement.”

Archbishop Pietro Sambi’s funeral will be at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, August 6th – the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, at 2:00 p.m. and will be televised on EWTN.

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