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SAMBI-MASS Aug-1-2011 (500 words) xxxn

Memorial Mass for nuncio will be celebrated Sept. 14 at national shrine

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A memorial Mass for Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who died July 27, will be celebrated Sept. 14 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will be the main celebrant of the noon Mass, according to an Aug. 1 announcement by the USCCB.

The 73-year-old Italian archbishop, apostolic nuncio to the United States since February 2006, died at Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore from complications related to lung surgery performed approximately three weeks earlier.

On July 29 and 30, his body lay in state at the apostolic nunciature in Washington and then was transported to Italy for funeral services.

His body arrived at the airport in Rimini, Italy, the morning of July 31 and was taken to the parish church in his hometown, Sogliano al Rubicone, where a prayer service was held that evening and another was scheduled for Aug. 1.

The Church of St. Lawrence was to be open for mourners to pay their respects until the funeral Mass Aug. 2.

In Washington, the memorial Mass will be on the feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross and will coincide with the fall meeting of the USCCB Administrative Committee. Bishops from around the country will concelebrate, including Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington.

Msgr. Jean-Francois Lantheaume, charge d'affaires at the apostolic nunciature, also will be a concelebrant.

In a July 28 memo to the bishops, Archbishop Dolan said the Mass for Archbishop Sambi will be an opportunity to express "gratitude for his priestly example and timeless service to the Holy Father and to the church."

The Mass also will be an opportunity for the diplomatic corps to pay its respects to Archbishop Sambi. As Vatican ambassador to the United States, he was a member of the corps.

In a separate statement, Msgr. Walter Rossi, the shrine's rector, said the late archbishop was a familiar face at the national shrine, serving as the celebrant and homilist for Christmas, Easter and other church feast days.

He said the shrine is honored to be the site of the memorial Mass because "in many respects the national shrine serves as the nuncio's cathedral."

Archbishop Sambi was "everything you would want in a bishop and priest," Msgr. Rossi said. "He was kind, gentle, tough when he had to be, a deeply spiritual man, a well-educated man, the consummate diplomat and a priest with ... a great sense of care and responsibility for the people."

"I consider myself blessed to call Archbishop Sambi a friend and although he is no longer physically present with us, I am confident that together with the church in the United States, I have a friend in heaven," Msgr. Rossi said.

"As Archbishop Sambi carefully watched over the church in the United States during the past five years, I trust he will continue to watch over us and intercede before God on our behalf," the priest added.


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