Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

US Nuncio Dies at Age 73

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

US Nuncio Dies at Age 73

Article excerpt

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican nuncio to the United States, died July 27 after a two-week hospitalization following lung surgery. He was 73.

Viewed widely as an affable man and open-minded diplomat, Sambi was appointed U.S. nuncio in December 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.

"Sambi was, simply put, the best nuncio in my lifetime," wrote NCR columnist Michael Sean Winters after hearing of his death. "In his relations with the U.S. government and with the church in the U.S., his was a calming presence, a friendly face and a listening ear."

Winters continued: "I recall attending Notre Dame's annual reception for the bishops on the eve of their November meeting in 2009, six months after several bishops had denounced the university for awarding an honorary doctorate to President Obama. Archbishop Charles Chaput [of Denver] accused Notre Dame at the time of'prostituting our Catholic identity.' Nasty stuff. But Archbishop Sambi was one of the first to arrive at the Notre Dame reception, and one of the last to leave. He sat at the most conspicuous table in the room and held court. His presence said all that needed to be said."

In Sambi's first address to the U.S. bishops in 2006 in Baltimore, his characteristically gentle and nondefensive approach was apparent.

"I am not suggesting that the bishops should be 'watchdogs' of the faith," he said. "I am speaking of something much more difficult: The munus docendi [teaching office] of the bishop must lead the faithful to live in gratitude to Almighty God for the gift of life, the gift of faith, the gift of the church, the gift of service, the gift of joy and the gift of fidelity."

During his U.S. tenure, the church faced some difficult challenges. Sambi handled the task of removing Bishop Joseph Martino from Scranton, Pa. Martino had alienated his clergy and his flock. …

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