Catholic News Service' Julie Asher profiles the papal nuncio Italian Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who will help celebrate the Pope's 81st birthday on April 16th.
[Archbishop Sambi] hopes the message U.S. Catholics get from the papal visit is "one of the things that the pope pronounced the first day after being elected pope: Don't be afraid. Jesus Christ takes away nothing from you, but he will enrich you." . . .Sambi touches on the presidential election (""If there is something that is an exclusive prerogative of the Americans, it is the choice of their leaders. And the foreigners should not interfere") and speculation as to what the Pope and President Bush will discuss when they meet ("If it's private, it's private"). He does address the matter of the war:
Aside from a meeting with President George W. Bush and a major U.N. address the pope will deliver April 18, the papal trip is first and foremost "a pastoral journey," said Archbishop Sambi.
The pontiff "comes to strengthen the faith, the hope and love of the Catholic Church in the United States," the archbishop said, adding that he hopes the pope's visit will "bring a new wind of Pentecost ... a new springtime" to the U.S. church.
But Pope Benedict also "will bring his friendship and his holy word to all the people of the United States," he added.
Asked about diplomatic relations between the Vatican and the U.S. in light of the church's criticism of Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq, Archbishop Sambi replied that "the deep conviction of the Holy See is that war must be always the last option. All other options have to be tried before starting a war. A war is always a sign of human failure in reaching an agreement.And what does Archbishop Sambi think of Catholics in America?
"Peace is not a defeat for anybody but is a victory for the future," he added.
Archbishop Sambi said the pope will find "a really alive Catholic Church" in the United States, something the nuncio has seen in his own travels around the country. . . . "I have found everywhere Catholics of excellent quality, youth, full of joy, of energy and of creativity," he said.
"Many good things are done in the Catholic Church in the United States," Archbishop Sambi said, but "as a good nuncio, I should say much more can be done to bring Jesus Christ to everybody who is thirsty for him, and to invite those who abandoned (the church) or (left because of) a decision of the church to return home."
"There is no church alive without a permanent evangelization," he continued. The church must "continuously give the word of God and the instrument of salvation," the sacraments, "to the faithful," he said.
- Pope's ambassador to host the boss on a grand stage, by Daniel Burke. Religion News Service. March 13, 2008.
- Pope's man in U.S. has won hearts all around Winston-Salem Journal. March 15, 2008.