Pietro Sambi

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His Excellency

Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States
Titular Archbishop of Bellicastrum
Archbishop Sambi with U.S. President Barack Obama
Appointed17 December 2005
(as nuncio to the U.S.)
Other postsApostolic 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)
Ordination14 March 1964
Consecration9 November 1985
by Jozef Tomko
Personal details
Born(1938-06-27)27 June 1938
Sogliano al Rubicone, Italy
Died27 July 2011(2011-07-27) (aged 73)
Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, United States
Styles of
Pietro Sambi
Mitre plain 2.png
Reference styleThe Most Reverend
Spoken styleHis Excellency
Religious styleArchbishop

Pietro Sambi (27 June 1938 – 27 July 2011) was an Italian Roman Catholic prelate who served in the diplomatic service of the Holy See from 1969 until his death in 2011. He held senior appointments to Burundi, Indonesia, Cyprus, Israel, Jerusalem and Palestine. He was Apostolic Nuncio to the United States at his death. He became an archbishop in 1985.


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

He was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro on 14 March 1964 and earned degrees in theology and canon law. At the Diocesan Seminary in Pennabilli he was responsible for priestly formation and then became Vice Rector.[2]

He entered the diplomatic service of the Secretariat of State in 1969, serving at the nunciatures in Cameroon.[1] He moved to the Apostolic Nunciature in Jerusalem on 19 July 1971, and then to the Apostolic Nunciatures in Cuba in 1974, Algeria in 1978, Nicaragua in 1979, Belgium in 1981, and India in May 1984 with the rank of counselor.[1] In Nicaragua, he was named charge d'affaires just after the leftist Sandinistas under Daniel Ortega came to power and mediated between the Catholic bishops who opposed priests' participation in the government and priests who held prominent government offices in the socialist government.[3]

On 10 October 1985, Pope John Paul II named him pro-nuncio to Burundi and titular archbishop of Bellicastrum.[1] In 1991 he was made pro-nuncio to Indonesia. On 6 June 1998 he was named to several positions concurrently: nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and Apostolic Delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine.[1] When the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem became the center of a stalemate between Palestinian Israeli forces, he negotiated a peaceful resolution. He also criticized Israel's construction of a wall to separate the Palestinian territories from Israel. In March 2003 he warned that Palestinian plans for self-government made no allowance for the practice of religions other than Islam. He also criticized the anti-Semitism found in Palestinian schoolbooks and successfully campaigned for Italy to discontinue support for educational initiatives that used such works. He campaigned for a special status for Jerusalem that would allow it to serve as the center of several major religions.[2][4] In 2005, he complained that Israel was failing to implement agreements reached with the Holy See over church properties and the treatment of Catholic Arabs in Jerusalem more than a decade earlier.[3]

Pope Benedict XVI named Sambi the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States and the Holy See's permanent observer to the Organization of American States on 17 December 2005.[5] He was installed in early 2006.[1] He toured the damage left by Hurricane Katrina during the summer of 2006, shortly after his appointment.{[cn}} During Pope Benedict's April 2008 visit to the U.S., 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.[4] As nuncio, beginning in 2007, he was tasked with and had little success in enforcing restrictions that Pope Benedict XVI placed on Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop emeritus of Washington, because of reports of inappropriate sexual behavior.[6][7]

Sambi received an honorary doctorate from Regis University in Denver, Colorado, on 8 May 2011. He was the 2009 Living Stones Solidarity Award of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation for his work in the Middle East.

On 22 July 2011, Sambi underwent lung surgery and developed complications that required the use of assisted ventilation. On 27 July, he died Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore, apparently from complications relating to that surgery.[4][8]


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ a b "Pope Benedict appoints top Vatican diplomat as Papal Nuncio to the US". Catholic News Agency. 17 December 2005. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Vitello, Paul (29 July 2011). "Archbishop Pietro Sambi, Vatican Envoy, Dies at 73". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  4. ^ a b c Desmond, Joan Frawley (28 July 2011). "Archbishop Pietro Sambi's Legacy: Dynamic Diplomat Who Always Defended the Church". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  5. ^ <"Rinunce e Nomine, 17.12.2005" (Press release) (in Italian). Holy See Press Office. 17 December 2005. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  6. ^ Faggioli, Massimo (29 November 2018). "The Day of Judgment In Italy, a New Book Challenges Viganò's Testimony". Commonweal. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  7. ^ Horowitz, Jason (7 October 2018). "Cardinal Pens Scathing Letter to Archbishop Who Accused Pope of Cover-Up". New York Times. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  8. ^ 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