At left, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, apostolic nuncio, at the installation of Most Rev Joe Vasquez, Bishop of Austin. Sambi, in March 2010, is shown reading a letter from Pope Benedict XVI.
Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer released the following statement on the death of Archbishop Sambi: "I was shocked to learn this morning of the death of dear Archbishop Sambi, the Apostolic Nuncio, or Papal Ambassador, to the United States. I knew Archbishop Sambi very well and he gave great service to the entire Catholic Church in the U.S. and was always very helpful in assisting me as Bishop of the Diocese of San Angelo. May God grant him eternal peace and guide our Holy Father as he names a new Apostolic Nuncio for the US."
News Release on Archbishop Sambi's death:
ARCHBISHOP SAMBI REMEMBERED AS FRIEND OF THE UNITED STATES
WASHINGTON—Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, died at Johns Hopkins Hospital July 27. He was 73. Staff at the nunciature, his residence in Washington, on July 22 asked for prayers of the Catholic community for him. Funeral arrangements are pending.
Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Archbishop Sambi was a friend of the United States.
“As the personal representative of the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Sambi enjoyed the highest respect and deepest affection of the bishops of the United States and of our Catholic people,” Archbishop Dolan said in a July 28 statement.
Archbishop Sambi was appointed U.S. nuncio, or ambassador, in December 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to the U.S. appointment, Pope John Paul II had named him nuncio to Israel and Cyprus and apostolic delegate in Jerusalem and Palestine in 1998. The appointment made him only the second Vatican ambassador to Israel, after the Vatican and Israel established diplomatic relations in 1994.
Archbishop Sambi was a native of central Italy and was ordained a priest in 1964. He was named an archbishop and nuncio to Burundi in 1985, a position he held for six years until being named nuncio to Indonesia. During Pope Benedict’s April 2008 visit to the United States, Archbishop Sambi accompanied the pope and hosted him at the nunciature, where the pope held a historic private meeting with five victims of clergy sexual abuse.
Before the pope’s arrival, the archbishop said Pope Benedict was coming to “strengthen the faith, the hope and love of the Catholic Church in the United States,” adding that he hoped the pope’s visit would “bring a new wind of Pentecost … a new springtime” to the U.S. church.
Archbishop Sambi recognized the global role of the United States and the U.S. church and told the bishops in 2006 an anecdote from his time as Vatican representative to Indonesia. He recalled a Christmas he spent in a remote village in Indonesia where in street shops, he said, “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 told the bishops. Shortly after being named U.S. nuncio, Archbishop Sambi told Catholic News Service, the official news service of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, of the reach of the church in the United States.
“I travel a lot throughout the world. It is difficult to find a part of the world where the charity of U.S. Catholics did not reach the poor or sick people,” he said.
Archbishop Sambi received many honors, including an honorary doctorate in public and ecclesial service, May 8, from Regis University in Denver. In 2009, he received the Living Stones Solidarity Award, which honors those who have made “a sustained and extraordinary effort to love, support and stand in solidarity with the Christians in the Holy Land.” It is bestowed by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.
Last September he was the principal celebrant of a Mass marking the 13th anniversary of the death of Blessed Teresa of Kolkata, which coincided with the U.S. Postal Service’s issuance of a stamp bearing her likeness.
“This stamp looks almost like a holy card. I pray it may serve in some small way as a reminder of Mother Teresa,” Archbishop Sambi said. “May Jesus stamp upon our hearts the same spirit as Mother’s to love God, the church and the poorest of the poor more than ourselves.”
At a 10th anniversary observance in 2009 of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification signed by Catholics and Lutherans, Archbishop Sambi told a Washington audience that today’s disciples of Jesus, like the first disciples, should be recognized by how they love each other and, guided by Jesus, they should walk together in a spirit of unity, mutual respect and brotherhood.
“Each act of unity is a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus,” said the archbishop.
At the 2007 convention of the National Catholic Educational Association, he calledteachers “the greatest artists of the world … because you sculpt the best of what you are, not in a piece of marble but in human beings who are the glory of God.”
“Each of us has forgotten a lot of what we were told in school,” he added, “but a lot of
what’s inside is from the example of teachers.”
Archbishop Sambi had not yet been appointed to the U.S. until when Hurricane Katrina
hit in 2005, but a year after the storm, he took what locals call a “misery tour” of New Orleans. It was only then, he said, he realized the extent of the damage. “You cannot measure the extent of it until you come on the spot,” he said.
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By Jimmy Patterson
WINTERS -- Gary Jacob pulled out his calendar and added up the totals. A quarter-inch one day. Four-tenths of an inch another. Five one-hundredths of an inch on still another. A half inch — a good day — on another.
“We’’ve had three and a half inches this year,” said Jacob, a farmer who tills a spread west of Winters. He and wife Dinell and their family served as hosts of the annual Seed, Soil & Oil Mass, June 30.
People in parts of the Western Permian Basin just dream of 3 1/2 inches of rain.
Three-and a half inches? That would be like living in the Amazon Rain Forest for people in Midland and elsewhere. But drought is drought and it is all bad. Especially this time around, when old-timer after old-timer who survived the drought of the 1950s will tell you this one is worse. And while that should make it official, hearing those who were around for the Big Dry of the 1950s talk of how this drought is even harder lends some perspective on the historic times West Texans are enduring.
Jacob’s cotton hasn’t — and won’t— come up this year, devastating his family’s annual income by 50 percent.
Mrs. Jacob, a firm believer that things will improve, says the Seed Soil & Oil Mass served as a huge reassurance to her family, and gives them the hope that might otherwise wane.
“I don’t know how to put it, how it feels to have all these people here,” Mrs Jacob said, a touch of emotion rimming her eyes. “We’ll have no cotton at all this year and that’s the first time in all the years we’ve been farming.”
All those years total 37 -- in just this generation for the Jacob Family, which has worked the land now for three generations, with a fourth one coming up.
“The drought seems to be affecting us more this time,” Mr. Jacob said. “Back in 2000 when it was so dry, we at least got the cotton up.”
As bad as it has been for his family and others, at least the Jacob Farm has escaped the wildfires. Family members instructed the 140 people to park on a caliche area for the Mass and avoid driving near the grass. Any errant spark would be enough to light up most any part of West Texas.
Rev. Hubert Wade, pastor of St. Mary in Ballinger, St. James Mission in Bronte, and Our Lady of Gudalupe in hard-hit Robert Lee tells stories of one recent wildfire caused by sunlight refracting through a soft drink bottle and catching the dry grass on fire. And he confirms the stories shared after the Mass of ranchers in his pastoral region who have had cattle burned in the wildfires. The cattle, though, weren’t burned to death, only injured. Death only came when the rancher was forced to shoot each of them. They would not have survived had the rancher not taken such action. One rancher was forced to repeat the mercy killings 150 times after a recent wildfire. Another had to put down 100. Still another story shared told of 100 head of deer in the countryside that went into a brushy area to escape a raging blaze. Once in, they could not get out and were burned alive.
As horrific as the scenes are, perhaps the most unsettling news of all, according to Father Wade, is the reality that if it doesn’t rain in the town of Robert Lee, its water supply will run dry by the middle of August. This August. Next month.
Nearby Lake Spence, which provides water through the Colorado River Municipal Water District, is two percent full. There is no outdoor watering allowed in either Robert Lee or Bronte and community leaders are drilling wells and even trying to find a town with a more plentiful water supply into which they can tap.
“We tell them to pray, but we invite them to be water conscience and safe. We don’t need any more fires,” Father Wade said.
WORDS OF HOPE
Bishop Michael D. Pfeifer, OMI, who presided over the Seed, Soil & Oil Mass at the Jacob’s farm, repeatedly served up words of encouragement for those in attendance, reminding them to stay hopeful and prayerful.
“Farmers are the greatest people of faith,” Pfeifer said,”They are the greatest gamblers in the world or the greatest believers. Every year is a gamble and every year takes a lot of faith and we’re going through a tough time right now.”
Pfeifer pointed to Psalm 10 noting God’s reassurance even in the hardest of times.
“The Lord is saying trust me even though the land is dry,” Pfeifer said. “He said, ‘I can still make it rain. If we keep having faith and reaching out God will hear us because He loves us and wants to help us.”
Faith and belief that the corner will some day be turned is what the people who live in Texas must have to survive this. Getting through the extended dry period will be a long process and one drenching rain would not end the years-long drought in the area. It would only provide relief.
“The people here have a very deep faith and a strong family ethic, and to be able to come out and celebrate that in the middle of this drought is tremendous. Gary and Dinell Jacob have been preparing for this Mass for two weeks and all the family has helped and the neighbors wanted to be here tonight to support not just them but each other and everyone.”
PHOTO: Congregants pray at the Seed, Soil and Oil Mass, June 30, at the Jacob Farm near Winters, Texas.