Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Triumph of the Cross: Homily of Archbishop Timothy Dolan at Memorial Mass for Archbishop Pietro Sambi

“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee! Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the World!”

Cardinal Wuerl, Cardinal Baum, eminent cardinals;

My brother bishops;

Msgr. Lantheaume;

Brother priests and deacons;

Consecrated women and men religious;

Distinguished members of the diplomatic corps and public officials;

Brothers and sisters in Christ;

Friends in faith and prayer:

If I am not mistaken, it was at the installation of Peter Christensen as bishop of Superior, Wisconsin…

As Metropolitan Archbishop of Milwaukee I was with our still relatively new apostolic nuncio, Pietro Sambi, vesting before the Mass. When we joined the other bishops to vest, he asked me if we bishops here in America wore our pectoral cross on the inside or outside of the chasuble. I replied “Eccellenza, as a matter of fact, all the bishops will watch to see what you do and then follow suit!”

His eyes sparkled and he said, “Then I will keep changing it back and forth to confuse everybody.”

Then he commented, “As long as it is over our heart, it does not really make any difference.”

As long as the cross is on our heart, nothing else really makes any difference.

“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee! Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the World.”

That’s why it made so much sense to have the memorial Mass for our beloved nuncio, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, today: not just because so many of us still mourning bishops would be here in D.C. for the meeting of the Administrative Committee of our Conference; not just because people are all back to normal after summer vacations, but because it is the Feast of the Triumph of the Holy Cross.

In the luminous life and ministry of Pietro Sambi, to be sure, effective and memorable diplomatic service on behalf of the Apostolic See in Cameroon, Cuba, Africa, Nicaragua, Belgium, India, Burundi, Indonesia, Israel, and as we fondly and gratefully recall, here in the United States of America, radiantly stands out.

But we acclaim today that what is of far more profound meaning and of everlasting consequence in his life was that the cross of Christ, triumphant over sin, Satan, and death, was on his heart.

That he was baptized into the mystery of the cross of Christ four days after his birth in Forli, Italy, in 1938;

That he was nourished with the precious blood of Christ shed on the cross, and sacramentally sealed on his soul with the victory of the cross through the sacrament of confirmation; ordained a priest to spread the victory of the cross in 1964; and had the cross placed over his heart when ordained a bishop in 1985…

In lumine tuo, “in your light” he chose as his motto, professing the light of Easter morning, the triumph of the cross, after the darkness of Good Friday.

As Monsignor Lantheaume and other loyal members of his household can attest; as Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop O’Brien, and I can verify—since we had the honor of tracing the cross upon him on his deathbed—Pietro Sambi knew the mystery of the cross as well in his final, unexpected illness.

But he had witnessed it too as he saw the cross in his varied diplomatic missions, in the poverty and oppression of peoples, in religious acrimony and war.

We bishops of the United States will never forget the warm, personable manner in which he summoned us to be ambassadors of the healing and reconciliation won by Jesus on the cross, and be ever grateful for the tender way he unfailingly responded to our own needs.

He certainly viewed his diplomatic vocation, as an ambassador of the vicar of the crucified one, as an extension of the invitation to mercy, reconciliation, unity, peace, and life inherent in the Triumph of the Cross;

He saw his diplomatic mission as an encouragement of the most noble virtues illuminated by the light of the cross: trust, honesty, and unity.

So today, as we celebrate the victory of the cross, we confess our faith in Jesus—in lumine tuo—that, “by dying, He destroyed our death; that by rising, He restored our life;”

We trust, that by His mercy, Pietro Sambi now shares in that triumph forever;

We praise God for the gift that our nuncio was to the Church, to the diplomatic world, to us here in the United States…as, like Archbishop Sambi, we place the cross over our hearts.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord!

And let perpetual light shine upon him!

May he rest in peace! Amen!

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace!


“We adore Thee, O Christ, and we praise Thee! Because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the World!”

1 comment:

John Jay Hughes said...

A beautiful tribute, enhanced by its brevity!
Fr. John Jay Hughes, St. Louis