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 CNS Story:

BISHOPS-SAMBI Jun-19-2006 (370 words) xxxn

New nuncio lauds U.S. church, stresses evangelization

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- In his first address to the U.S. bishops, the new papal nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, stressed the importance of evangelization and urged the bishops not to be disheartened by the clergy sexual abuse scandals that have plagued them in media headlines for the past four years.

Archbishop Sambi's brief remarks June 15, on the first day of the bishops' three-day spring meeting in Los Angeles, displayed flashes of self-deprecating humor, insight and a focus on current issues in the U.S. church rarely seen in similar addresses by the previous two nuncios to the United States.

The Vatican representative to Israel and the Palestinian territories before taking up his U.S. post in February, Archbishop Sambi described the U.S. bishops as "a people of great experience, great holiness and also great suffering."

He said he was "not used to speaking" to so many bishops -- nearly 250 gathered for the spring meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops -- but he felt like the donkey who carried Jesus into Jerusalem. "The donkey remained a donkey, but the message was from God," he said.

In all his previous diplomatic posts from the Vatican, he said, he found that what is essential is faith in Jesus and the Gospel message of his resurrection.

"As Christians we have to transform any Way of the Cross, any Calvary, into a moment of resurrection," he said. "This is specific for us as a Christian to make any difficulty a moment of resurrection."

Archbishop Sambi highlighted the global role of the United States and the U.S. church with an anecdote about when he was the Vatican representative to Indonesia several years ago.

One Christmas, he said, he decided to celebrate the feast with a visit to a small, remote, primitive village where "I could not drink the water" because he was not immune to local bacteria or viruses. Then a smoker, he also forgot to bring enough cigarettes with him.

When he arrived in the remote village, he said, in its street shops "I found Coca-Cola and Marlboros."

"I think the United States and the church of the United States has something more to bring to the world than Marlboros and Coca-Cola," he said.


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