Pietro Sambi

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His Excellency
Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
Titular Archbishop of Bellicastrum
President George W. Bush and Archbishop of Washington.jpg
Archbishop Sambi is pictured second from right, along with former President George W. Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, and the then-incoming Archbishop of Washington, Donald Wuerl, now also a Cardinal, at the White House. They were gathered there for a reception celebrating Wuerl's installation.
Appointed 17 December 2005
(as nuncio to the U.S.)
Other posts Apostolic Delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine; Nuncio to Israel and Cyprus (1998–2005)
Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Indonesia (1991–1998)
Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to Burundi (1985–1991)
Ordination 14 March 1964
Consecration 9 November 1985
by Jozef Tomko
Personal details
Born (1938-06-27)27 June 1938
Sogliano al Rubicone, Italy
Died 27 July 2011(2011-07-27) (aged 73)
Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, United States
Nationality Italian
Styles of
Pietro Sambi
Mitre (plain).svg
Reference style The Most Reverend
Spoken style His Excellency
Religious style Archbishop

Pietro Sambi (27 June 1938 – 27 July 2011) was an Italian Roman Catholic prelate who served in the Vatican's Secretariat of State. At the time of his death, he was the Titular Archbishop of Bellicastrum and the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States.


Sambi was born in Sogliano al Rubicone (Forlì-Cesena), Italy, on 27 June 1938[1] and spoke Italian, English, French and Spanish.[2]

Ecclesiastical career[edit]

He was ordained to the priesthood for the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro on 14 March 1964,[1] and began work in the diplomatic service of the Secretariat of State in 1969, serving at the nunciatures in Cameroon.[2] He was transferred to the Apostolic Nunciature in Jerusalem on 19 July 1971, and subsequently to the Apostolic Nunciatures in Cuba in 1974, Algeria in 1978, Nicaragua in 1979, Belgium in 1981, and then India in May 1984 with the rank of counselor.[2]

On 10 October 1985, Sambi was named the pro-nuncio to Burundi by Pope John Paul II, and was consecrated titular archbishop of Bellicastrum.[1][2] In 1991 he was made the pro-nuncio to Indonesia, and in 1998 was named nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.[1][2] Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Sambi as the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States on December 17, 2005. He was installed in early 2006.[1][2]

During Pope Benedict's April 2008 visit to the U.S., Archbishop Sambi accompanied the Pope and hosted him at the Apostolic Nunciature, where the Pope held a historic private meeting with five victims of clergy sexual abuse. Archbishop Sambi recognized the global reach of the U.S. and American culture, and the immense contribution to the country and the world of the American Catholic church- particularly through its charitable work and its healthcare and educational institutions. He toured the damage left by Hurricane Katrina during the summer of 2006, shortly after his appointment. In 2007, he spoke at a convention of the National Catholic Educational Association, praising teachers in Catholic schools. During the 10th anniversary observance in 2009 of the Joint Declaration on Justification, the Archbishop told the Washington audience that charitable love and mutual respect were paramount, just as it was during the founding of the Church and in other earlier times, for any hope of progress in ecumenical relations and to remain faithful to Christ's expectations of his disciples regarding their treatment of one another (the Archbishop himself was widely respected in the American church for these qualities). Sambi was the recipient of many honors, including an honorary doctorate received on May 8, 2011 from Regis University in Denver, Colorado as well as the 2009 Living Stones Solidarity Award of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (as Nuncio there before coming to America, Archbishop Sambi had tried to improve access to holy sites, Christian-Jewish-Muslim dialogue, the Israeli-Palestinian talks, and the ability of Arab Israeli Catholic priests to serve with more ease in Israel). In September 2010, he presided at a Mass to mark the 13th anniversary of the death of Blessed Mother Teresa, which coincided with a U.S. postal commemoration of her.

Health problems and death[edit]

According to a press release advisory jointly issued by the Apostolic Nunciature to the United States and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on 22 July 2011, Sambi underwent lung surgery and developed complications that required the temporary use of assisted ventilation. The Apostolic Nunciature and Sambi's family asked that bishops, priests, religious, and the lay faithful offer sacrifices and prayers for the health of the Apostolic Nuncio.[3]

On 27 July 2011, it was announced that Archbishop Sambi, 73, had died, apparently from complications relating to the lung surgery. Many American Bishops, including New York City's Archbishop Timothy Michael Dolan, president of the American bishops' conference, released statements expressing sorrow at his death. The body, after lying in state at the Apostolic Nunciature for two days, arrived at the airport in Rimini, Italy the morning of Sunday, July 31, 2011, and was taken to the parish church in his hometown, Sogliano al Rubicone. A prayer service was held that night in the Church of St. Lawrence, and another is planned for the evening of Monday, August 1. The Church will be open for mourners to pay their respects until the afternoon of the following day, Tuesday, August 2, when the casket will be taken from the Church to Matteotti Square in the town of about 3,200 residents. Monsignor Luigi Ricci, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rimini and pastor of St. Lawrence, said the Funeral Mass there will begin at 4:00 P.M. After the Funeral Mass there, parishioners will walk in procession, carrying the casket to the town's cemetery. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop Francesco Lambiasi of Rimini will preside at that Funeral Mass. Archbishop Giovanni Angelo Becciu, the Vatican's Substitute for General Affairs at the Secretariat of State, and Archbishop Giuseppe Bertello, the Apostolic Nuncio to Italy, will be among the concelebrants. A Memorial Mass for the Nuncio, to coincide with the Fall meeting of the Administrative Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), was held on Wednesday, September 14, 2011, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross of the Lord. Archbishop Dolan of New York, President of the USCCB, was the principal celebrant, with many of the country's Bishops, including Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., concelebrating, along with the current charge d'affaires at the Nunciature, Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume. Vatican officials later confirmed reports that had Archbishop Sambi lived and been able to continue to serve, he would have been transferred to a senior post in the Roman Curia that eventually would have likely raised him to the cardinalate.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d e Cheney, David M (20 February 2011). "Archbishop Pietro Sambi". Catholic-Hierarchy. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "Archbishop Pietro Sambi Named Apostolic Nuncio to United States" (Press release). United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. 17 December 2005. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  3. ^ "Advisory" (PDF) (Press release). Apostolic Nunciature to the United States. 22 July 2011. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
  4. ^ Lackey, Jim (27 July 2011). "Vatican nuncio to U.S. Archbishop Sambi dies". Catholic News Service. Retrieved 28 July 2011. 
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Bernard Henri René Jacqueline
Apostolic Nuncio to Burundi
10 October 1985 – 28 November 1991
Succeeded by
Rino Passigato
Preceded by
Francesco Canalini
Apostolic Nuncio to Indonesia
28 November 1991 – 6 June 1998
Succeeded by
Renzo Fratini
Preceded by
Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo
Apostolic Nuncio to Israel
6 June 1998 – 17 December 2005
Succeeded by
Antonio Franco
Preceded by
Gabriel Montalvo Higuera
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
17 December 2005 – 27 July 2011
Succeeded by
Carlo Maria Viganò