The triple murder of three elderly Italian religious sistersin Burundi has their religious family and the local community reeling. The ItalianForeign Ministryhas confirmed Monday’s death of a third missionary, Sister Bernadette Boggian,who was decapitated,according to a senior official of the local police. Boggian’s name is added to thethose of Sisters Lucia Pulici and Olga Raschietti, who were killed on Sunday.
Initialreports expressed the theory that the killings were the result of an attempted robberygone wrong, but it now appears that more was afoot here. Fr. Mario Pulcini,superior of the Xaverian Missionaries in Burundi, reported the death of thethree and expressed his opinion on VaticanRadio that given the brutality of the attack, it seems like some sort ofvendetta or something more personal.
According to a report from AgenceFrance Presse, the deputy director general of Burundian police, GodefroidBizimana, added other gruesome details about the demise of the three sisters.which the three sisters belonged has deniedreports of the rape.
Burundi is one of the five poorestcountries in the world and has one of the lowest per capita GDPs of any nation.The nation is predominantly Christian, with Roman Catholics representing thelargest group at 60-65%.
A statementreleased today by the Directorate-General of the Xaverian Missionariesexpressed gratitude for the witness of the three sisters, as well as to the manypeople who have reached out in sympathy and solidarity. “We gather in prayer,” thestatement said, “even for those who have committed this senseless act.”
Olga Raschietti had just turned 83 years old and had been inKamenge, Burundi, since 2010. According to the statement, Olga declared in July,2013,: “I am about to turn 80 years old. In my last trip to Italy, my superiorswere uncertain whether to let me leave. One day, during worship, I prayed, ‘Jesus,Thy will be done; But you know that I still want to go.’ In my mind I heard thesewords with crystal clarity: ‘Olga, you think you are to save Africa? Africa ismine. Nevertheless, I am glad that you are going. Go and give your life.’ Fromthat moment on, I no longer doubted.” Sister Olga’s brother told ANSA News today:Christian I am proud. She is already in heaven.”
Lucia Pulici would have turned 76 today. She was born onSeptember 8, 1939 in Desio, near Milan and became a missionary in 1960, at the ageof 21. Last October, according to the statement, she said: “Now I am returningto Burundi. Though at my age I am physically weak and limited, inwardly, Ithink I can say that my drive and desire to be faithful to Jesus’ loveexpressed in the mission is very much alive. The mission helps me to tell Him inmy weakness, ‘Jesus, look, it’s my gesture of love for you.'”
Bernadette Boggian was 79 years old and had been working in Burundisince 2007. The order’s statement relates that in August 2013, on the eve of herdeparture for the new Burundi, she had written: “We need to nurture in ourselvesa gaze of sympathy, respect and appreciation of the values of the cultures,traditions of the people we meet. This attitude, besides giving peace of mindto the missionary, helps us more easily find the appropriate language andgestures to communicate the Gospel. Despite the complex situation and conflictin the countries of the Great Lakes, I seem to sense the presence of a Kingdomof love that is being built, growing like a mustard seed.”
Pope Francis sent twotelegrams, one to the Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, Bishop EvaristeNgoyagoye and the other to the Superior General of the Xaverian Missionaries,Sister Ines Frizza, expressing his shock and condolences, and assuring hisprayers for “these generous witnesses of the Gospel.” “May their spilledblood be a seed of hope for building authentic brotherhood among peoples,” thePope wrote.
The Pope also sent his apostolicblessing to the family, the sisters and all those who are mourning thedeath of the three Italian nuns.
Tomorrow at 18:30, Bishop Monsignor EnricoSolmi will preside at the funeral Mass for the eternal repose of the threesisters.