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Murder of Italian Ambassador in DR Congo “must not go in vain”: Nuncio at Memorial Mass

Photos of Luca Attanasio and Vittorio Iacovacci during the Memorial Mass at the Our Lady of Congo Cathedral.

At the Eucharistic celebration in memory of late Luca Attanasio, the Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) murdered just over a week ago, the representative of the Holy Father in the Central African nation said that the diplomat’s death offers a call to resist evil and “must not be in vain.”

Luca Attanasio alongside his Italian-born bodyguard, Vittorio Iacovacci, and Congolese driver, Mustafa Milambo were killed February 22 in an ambush on a United Nations convoy in the Eastern part of DRC.

“The death of Luca and Vittorio is not and must not be in vain. In fact, it must be a call not to become accustomed to evil but rather resist evil and pain especially where they seem to have taken up residence, with their sad harvest of victims, among whom, let us not forget, one day could be any one of us,” Archbishop Ettore Balestrero said during the Memorial Mass Tuesday, March 2.

He added in reference to the slain Italian Ambassador and his bodyguard, “Luca and Vittorio have not only left us a testimony, but they have also, in a way, entrusted us with a task of working for the good of all.”

The attack on the UN convoy occurred as the ambassador was travelling from the city of Goma to visit a World Food Programme (WFP) school feeding project in Rutshuru.

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Aged 43, Luca was married and had three children. The former journalist had been at the helm of Italy’s mission in the capital of DRC, Kinshasa, since 2017. He became ambassador in 2019.

In his homily during the March 2 Memorial Eucharistic celebration at Our Lady of Congo Cathedral of DRC’s Kinshasa Archdiocese, Archbishop Balestrero noted that Luca distinguished himself above all by having many human and professional qualities.

“He was a frankly open person, capable of forging links with a wide range of people. He was able to transform the Embassy that had been entrusted to him into a kind of big family, willingly taking part in new and varied initiatives, the fruit of his admirable creativity,” the 54-year-old Italian-born diplomat added.

The Apostolic Nuncio in DRC further described the ambush on the convoy of the WFP, the agency that a few months ago received the Nobel Peace Prize, as a “very eloquent symbol of an attack on peace.”

Archbishop Balestrero who has been representing the Holy Father in DRC since 2019 also invited those responsible for the February 22 attack to repent their evil ways.

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“Stop doing evil, learn to do good, purify yourself. If you change your life and respect the demands of human justice, you will hear the cry of so many innocent people and, once you have repented, your very sins, red as the blood you have cruelly shed, will become white before God,” the Nuncio said making reference to the Prophet Isaiah.

He went on to caution, “If you persist in rebellion, you will be devoured by the sword, including the sword of righteousness.”

Among those who participated in the solemn event included Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo, Archbishop of Kinshasa, some 10 Catholic Bishops, Members of Government, President Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo, as well as Priests and hundreds of Christians.

Pope Francis has extended his spiritual closeness and prayers with the people of God in the DRC following an upsurge in violence recorded in recent weeks.

In a message read during the Eucharistic celebration in memory of the ambassador, it was noted that the Holy Father “entrusts to the mercy of God the victims of the heinous attack perpetrated on 22 February near Goma against the Italian Ambassador Luca Attanasio.”

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In the message, Pope Francis further assures the family of the diplomat and those of bodyguard and driver murdered alongside the ambassador of his closeness and fraternal affection. 

“May God grant the Congolese people the precious gift of peace and fraternity,” the Pope says in his message.

On his part, Cardinal Ambongo called on President Tshisekedi to use his good office to restore peace in the Central African nation.

“We know that this situation refers particularly to his responsibility as guarantor of the Constitution. We want to pray to the Lord for you and your family so that the Lord may fill you with courage and wisdom, to finally bring security and peace to all the Congolese people,” Cardinal Ambongo said.

The Congolese Cardinal faulted the security situation in the country and regretted loss of lives in the East of the country.

“We are firmly convinced that a lot of blood has been spilled in the East of our country,” Cardinal Ambongo said.

He added, “Our faith, our trust in the Lord tells us, what has happened is as if Congo has reached the peak, the highest peak, and the situation must change.”

“May God help us face all these challenges responsibly and in faith,” the Cardinal implored.