WASHINGTON (CNA) — Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Pope’s diplomatic representative to the U.S., has been placed on a ventilator following “delicate lung surgery” two weeks ago, the nunciature in Washington, D.C., announced July 22.
The nunciature cited “post-surgery complications” in the announcement, adding that the 73-year-old archbishop has been placed on assisted ventilation “to attempt recovery of his lung function.”
Don Clemmer, assistant director of media relations at the U.S. bishops’ conference, told CNA on July 25 that the nunciature’s statement is the only one being released on the archbishop’s condition at this time.
The nunciature, along with Archbishop Sambi’s family, asked “bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful” to offer “sacrifices and prayers” for the nuncio’s recovery.
Archbishop Sambi — widely regarded as one of the Vatican’s top diplomats — was appointed by Pope Benedict in 2005 as the apostolic nuncio to the United States. He began his duties in Washington in February of 2006.
The archbishop was born in the northern Italian town of Sogliano sul Rubicone in 1938 and was ordained a priest on March 14, 1964, for the Diocese of Montefeltro. Archbishop Sambi is fluent in English, Spanish and French, and also holds doctorate degrees in theology and canon law.
He joined the Vatican diplomatic service in 1969 and served in the nunciatures or apostolic delegations to Cameroon, Jerusalem, Cuba, Algeria, Nicaragua, Belgium and India.
In 1991, he was appointed apostolic nuncio to Indonesia and in 1998 was appointed apostolic nuncio to Israel and apostolic delegate to Jerusalem and Palestine.
During his difficult tenure as nuncio in Israel, Archbishop Sambi pushed for safeguards on freedom of religion, equality for monotheistic religions, and increased access to and worship in the holy places.
Both Jews and Palestinians acknowledged him as an uncompromising voice for peace and as scrupulously fair with both sides.