.- Archbishop Ambrose Madtha, the papal nuncio to the Ivory Coast, died on Saturday evening in a serious car accident on his way to an ordination in the West African country.
President Alassane Ouattara read a statement on national television expressing his “deep regret” at the nuncio’s death. He offered his condolences to the Catholic Church and to the archbishop’s family, Agence France Presse reports.
The Dec. 8 accident took place in the western town of Biankouma, according to Vatican Radio. The car collided with another vehicle, killing the nuncio and the car’s driver and injuring the nuncio’s secretary and a religious sister.
The Indian-born Archbishop Madtha, 57, was from Belthangady near Mangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka. He had served as the papal representative to the country since 2008. He had worked for peace between opposing sides in Ivory Coast’s political crisis from 2010-2011, when President Laurent Gbagbo refused to step down after his rival President Ouattara won the 2010 elections.
The crisis turned violent and Gbagbo barricaded himself in the Presidential Residence. With the backing of French forces, supporters of Ouattara assaulted the residence until French special forces arrested the previous president.
The archbishop did not leave the nunciature even though the fighting was less than a quarter mile away, Fides reports.
The country is still recovering from the political conflict. Gbagbo is awaiting trial in the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity.
The nuncio had intended to celebrate Mass in the town of Duékoué on the Liberian border.
The town was the site of a massacre of hundreds of people during the political crisis. Although the chaos of the time makes it impossible to determine who was responsible for the mass killings, the United Nations said that both sides committed atrocities.
Violence continued in 2012, when several people were killed in an assault on a refugee camp near Duékoué.
Archbishop Madtha had personally promised to aid refugees at a Catholic parish in the area, Fides reports.