On July 27th Archbishoip Pietro Sambi, our Apostolic Nuncio (a diplomatic representative from the Holy See to a state, country, or mission; in our case Archbishop Sambi was the Holy See representative to the US), died from complications in the lung surgery he underwent only two weeks ago. Archbishop Sambi had served as our Apostolic Nuncio for the past 6 years and was a celebrated diplomat throughout his diplomatic career beginning in 1969.
According to Archbishop Timothy Nolan, “he enjoyed everything from a stroll in the park near his residence in Washington to the diplomatic functions he attended as part of his service as the representative of the Holy See to the United States.” He seemed to be a simple man from simple beginnings as he was born and raised in central Italy in 1938. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1964 and enjoyed having pastoral care over his flock.
His most lasting impact here in the US would have to be how he dealt with the sexual abuse scandal. He is remembered for having been one of the few high-ranking church officials whom attempted to stop dioceses from closing their parishes in order to pay for court settlements pertaining to sexual abuse. Furthermore, he arranged private meetings between select victims of sexual abuse and the pope while Benedict XVI was in the US. His sensitivity to those victims of clerical sexual abuse was profound and noted by many whom he came in contact with.
Some obscure facts about the late Archbishop Pietro Sambi:
- He was fluent in English, French, and Spanish.
- His father was a school teacher.
- He arranged Pope John Paul II’s visit to Jerusalem in 2000 which was the first time any pope had visited the Western Wall and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.
- According to Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, “He could find something to laugh about, no matter what the situation involved.”
- The Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land has recently established a scholarship grant in honor of Archbishop Sambi and the inspiring life he led.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi seems to have been a model man, archbishop, priest, and diplomat whom we can all learn from. He is a great loss. May God Bless his family and the whole Church during this time of mourning and celebration of his life of service and joy.