Pope Francis Sends Condolences for Assassinated Italian Ambassador

Pope Francis holds a candle as he arrives to celebrate Mass on the occasion of the celebration of the World Day of Consecrated Life at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican on February 2, 2021. (Photo by Andrew Medichini / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW MEDICHINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDREW MEDICHINI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis sent a telegram to the Italian president Tuesday expressing his sorrow over the assassination Monday of the country’s ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

“It was with sorrow that I learned of the tragic attack in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which the young Italian ambassador Luca Attanasio, the 30-year-old carabiniere Vittorio Iacovacci, and their Congolese driver Mustapha Milambo lost their lives,” the pope said in the telegram to Italian President Sergio Mattarella.

Italian media have suggested the ambush that took the lives of the 43-year-old ambassador and part of his entourage resulted from a failed kidnapping attempt targeting the two-car convoy because they were “white.”

The incident reportedly took place while representatives from the U.N. World Food Program (WFP) were traveling north from Goma to Rutshuru, in eastern Congo, where the Italian diplomat was supposed to visit a WFP food distribution program.

“I express my heartfelt condolences to their families, to the diplomatic corps and to the carabinieri branch for the death of these servants of peace and law,” the pontiff continued in his missive. “We recall the exemplary witness of the Ambassador, a person of noteworthy human and Christian qualities, always generous in weaving fraternal and cordial relations, for the restoration of serene and united relations within that African country; as well as that of the carabiniere officer, experienced and generous in his service and about to form a new family.”

Reports described the assault as the work of six or seven armed men who captured the ambassador and his contingent and begin marching them away, when they were suddenly interrupted by soldiers and government rangers. A firefight followed, killing a number of people.

According to a statement from the Congolese presidency, the kidnappers shot the ambassador and the officer of the military police (carabinieri) at point-blank range.

“As I pray for the eternal rest of these noble sons of the Italian nation, I urge you to trust in God’s providence, in whose hands nothing is lost of the good accomplished, all the more so when it is confirmed by suffering and sacrifice,” the pope concluded in his telegram. “To you, Mr. President, to the relatives and colleagues of the victims and to all those who weep in this mourning, I send my heartfelt blessing.”

The Italian daily Corriere della Sera reported Tuesday that Congolese President Felix Antoine Tshisekedi had visited the widow of the Italian ambassador accompanied by his wife to express their condolences in person.

The murdered ambassador leaves behind a wife and three young daughters.

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