Slain Nuncio Hailed as an Envoy of Peace

Mass for Archbishop Courtney Celebrated in St. Peter's

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The Vatican's secretary of state presided over a memorial Mass for Archbishop Michael Courtney and highlighted the work of reconciliation and concord carried out by the apostolic nuncio in Burundi.



Attending the Mass on Thursday in St. Peter's Basilica were relatives of the Irish-born archbishop who, said Cardinal Angelo Sodano, was "brutally killed in an ambush last December 29."

"Night and day, tirelessly, Archbishop Michael Courtney helped Burundians re-establish understanding and concord among themselves through dialogue," the Vatican secretary of state said.

The killing took place in Minago, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Bujumbura, the capital, where the archbishop had gone for pastoral duties. The car he was traveling in was attacked by gunmen from a hill near the road.

Gravely wounded, Archbishop Courtney died shortly after in a nearby hospital.

John Paul II named him apostolic nuncio in Burundi in 2000, elevating him to the Archdiocesan See of Eanach Duin. The archbishop was about to leave Burundi as the Pope had appointed him nuncio in Cuba. For the first time, the name of a papal representative has been added to the list of those who died for the Gospel.

"He did not spare any effort to reconcile all Burundians, without any exceptions," said Cardinal Sodano, quoting from a message from Burundi's bishops. "In this way he wished to show that there is no other way to save our country than that of dialogue, reconciliation and the final rejection of murder and killings as political means."

Archbishop Courtney "has taught us the art of Christian living," which consists in "considering life as a mission that must be fulfilled, a path to be followed as designed by Providence for us," Cardinal Sodano added.

He stressed that "the nonbeliever banishes the thought of death from his daily living," while "the Christian prepares calmly for his encounter with the Lord," making preparation for death the art of living.

"Our beloved nuncio taught us this art of Christian living," the cardinal said. "Son of the noble Irish land, he took on the roads of the world the testimony of his strong faith. Following in Christ's footsteps, he sacrificed himself for the people of Burundi, where the Pope had sent him as an apostle of peace."