Diocese of Rockville Centre

STATEMENT

DATE:  August 1, 2011 (St. Alphonsus Liguori)

RE:  Statement on Archbishop Pietro Sambi, 73. 

FROM: Bishop William Murphy, Bishop, Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre

This past week one of those shepherds who came to our shores to serve the Church as the Pope’s representatives was called home to the house of our Heavenly Father.  Archbishop Pietro Sambi began his priestly life by offering to serve the Church in diplomatic service of the Holy See.  From the time he was 33 till his death at 73 last Wednesday he offered his service to the Holy Father and to the churches where he labored for forty years.  He was a diplomat but one with a shepherd’s heart.  He was a distinguished churchman, in Central America, Burundi, Indonesia, the Holy Land and for more than five years here in the USA.  But he always coupled his vigorous and attentive service to a sense of humor and a palpable love of people, everyone, rich, poor, Muslim, Jew, priest, sister.  He even loved us bishops, something not everyone succeeds in doing.

We in turn loved him and enjoyed his company and were stirred by his vision of our vocation to be worthy successors of the apostles by offering ourselves with all our being to be other Christs in service to the Church and all the faithful.  We talked often on the phone and spent more than a little time together whenever circumstances permitted.  We last spoke on July 4th two days before he entered the hospital from where he dies this past Wednesday of complications following an intervention on his lungs.  We joked about the rumors in Rome that he was about to be transferred to Rome to a post where he would be made a cardinal.  But our real concern was about a bishop about whose health we both were concerned.  His last words to me were, “we will talk again when I come out of the hospital but remember, a bishop is for the Diocese; the Diocese is not for the bishop”.

What he said to me, he lived all his life.  He was a bishop who lived for the Church he loved by offering faithful service as the Pope’s Man and by being a bishop who shepherded us bishops and in turn helped us shepherd the Churches entrusted by God to our care.

May the Lord who showed pity on the crowd and then fed them by transforming the simple loaves and fish of his first apostles, continue to feed us His Church with the bread of life and to give us priests and bishops who are like my friend. He joyfully and with wisdom and love offered his life for the Church he loved.  May we all know with heart and soul that Paul is right when he reminds us that we are the beneficiaries of that astounding truth that “neither life nor death…nor any other creatures can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Eternal rest grant unto Archbishop Pietro Sambi, O Lord.  May perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace Amen

(Statement taken from Bishop Murphy's Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.)

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