Catholic bishops and lay people gathered Sept. 14 in Washington, D.C. to remember the life of Archbishop Pietro Sambi, a man who was described as having Christ's cross "engraved upon his heart."
The memorial Mass for Pope Benedict XVI's representative to the U.S. was held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the principal celebrant of the Mass. He was joined by six cardinals and more than 60 bishops from across the country, in addition to several dozen priests.
The noon Mass, which was open to the public, was also attended by several diplomats and the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden.
In his homily, Archbishop Dolan noted that the Mass was being held on the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.
He said that Archbishop Sambi “knew the mystery of the cross” through his service to the Church.
“The cross of Christ, triumphant over Satan, sin and death, was engraved upon his heart,” the New York archbishop said.
Speaking on behalf of his fellow American bishops, Archbishop Dolan said that he will never forget the nuncio’s “warm, personable manner” and the “tender way in which he unfailingly responded to our own needs.”
He recalled Archbishop Sambi’s many years of service to the Holy See, in countries including Cuba, Jerusalem, Algeria, Nicaragua and Israel.
In 2005, Archbishop Sambi was appointed as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States by Pope Benedict. As nuncio, he served as the Holy Father’s personal representative to the U.S. He died on July 27 in Baltimore, at age 73, after complications from a lung surgery.
Archbishop Dolan concluded his homily by thanking God for his gift of Archbishop Sambi to proclaim the triumph of the risen Lord.
“We trust, by his mercy, Pietro Sambi now shares in that triumph forever,” he said.
“He was a wonderful bridge,” Archbishop Dolan told CNA after the Mass. “He liked to bring people together. He liked to be a source of unity.”
“We are going to miss him.”