Three elderly Catholic nuns have been brutally raped, beaten, stabbed and beheaded at their convent in the central African republic of Burundi in two separate attacks that were dismissed initially by Italian authorities as a ‘botched robbery’.
The gruesome attacks have captured headlines in their native Italy, as the tragedy is the second time in less than a week an elderly Italian woman living abroad has been decapitated. Palmira Silva was beheaded with a ‘machete’ in her North London garden on Thursday, and the Nigerian man arrested for her murder will appear in court today.
Pope Francis has led the Catholic church in mourning for the women, offering prayers for them in a statement: “The Holy Father begs the Lord to welcome into his kingdom of peace and light these three faithful and devout nuns”, reports the Catholic Herald.
The convent in Kamenge housed only four nuns, three Italians and one Congolese. That the three European nuns were targeted and the other spared over two attacks suggests there may be a racial motive to the killing. Olga Raschietti, 83, and Lucia Pulici, 75 were both beaten, raped and stabbed to death on Saturday night by a killer who used a knife and rock to attack the pair before being seen fleeing the scene.
Bernadette Boggia, 79, was then found early Monday morning having been abused in the same way, and then beheaded. The Xaverian Missionary Society of Mary to which the nuns belonged initially dismissed the attack as the “tragic result of a burglary”, however Burundian police have revealed no money was taken at either of the attacks.
Burundi is one of the poorest countries of the world and suffers from severe underdevelopment of infrastructure, due to in part its history of bloody and destructive wars.