Pope Francis has expressed his condolences following the brutal murder of three Italian nuns in Burundi over the weekend, assuring the community of his closeness. “The Holy Father begs the Lord to welcome into his kingdom of peace and light these three faithful and devout nuns,” reads Sept. 8 a telegram addressed to Archbishop Evariste Ngoyagoye of Bujumbura, Burundi, where the sisters were serving in the parish of Saint Guido Maria Conforti. Signed by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State to the Holy See, the telegram continues: “In these tragic circumstances, (Pope Francis) expresses his closeness to their religious community, to the families of the victims, and the entire diocesan community.” Sr. Lucia Pulici, 75, and Sr. Olga Raschietti, 82, were found raped and brutally murdered in their dormitory on Sunday. The remains of 79-year-old Sr. Bernadetta Boggian, who had discovered the bodies of her fellow sisters, was found the following day. All three were members of the Xaverian Missionaries. Father Mario Pulcini, superior of the Xaverian Missionaries in Burundi, told the missionary news service MINSA that he had gone to the residence on Sept. 7 after he and Sr. Bernadetta were unable to reach Sr. Lucia and Sr. Olga. “I was in front of the main door with the idea of forcing it open when it opened and I saw Bernadetta there very upset. She had found a side service entrance open and, once she entered, found the lifeless bodies of Sisters Olga and Lucia.” The sisters chose to stay the following night in the residence, but were disturbed once more by an intruder. Soon after, Sr. Bernadetta was found dead. The Pope also sent a telegram to Sister Ines Frizza, Superior General of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary, the order to which the sisters belonged, in which he assured them of “his heartfelt participation in the profound suffering of the Congregation for the loss of such dedicated sisters.” He expressed his hope “that the blood they have shed may become the seed of hope to build true fraternity between peoples,” and prayed “for the eternal repose of their souls and for their generous witness of the Gospel.” In both telegrams, the Holy Father imparted his apostolic blessing to all those affected by the tragedy. Burundi police have arrested a man in connection with the murders. A police spokesmen said that Christian Butoyi, 33, confessed to the crime, alleging that the parish had been built on property owned by his parents. A Mass was held for the sisters on Wednesday in Bunjubura. Their remains were then interred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they had served for many years before coming to Burundi. During the Mass, Xaverian priest Fr. Rubén Macias explained that there are “mixed feelings why they were assassinated with violence, with unimaginable cruelty...they were sisters full of love!” “In this ceremony,” he said, “we wanted to proclaim just this: love that conquers despite all. The arrest of that man who was stopped yesterday gave a little comfort to our hearts, but that violence cannot conquer the love of these sisters who have given their life, more than 40 years, for Africa.” The president of the Bishops Conference for the African country, Banshimiyubusa Gervais, has called for an independent commission to be established that will further investigate the reasons behind the attack. Speaking of the reason given by Butoyi as why he killed the sisters, Fr. Macias explained that “This is a lie! The sisters didn't have property. They lived on the property of the parish which belongs to the diocese. It’s a lie as big as planet Earth!” The true motivations behind their murder have yet to be found, he said, “Because it's an incomprehensible thing; he knew the movements of the sisters, he surely knew the house...nothing can explain such violence. It's not human!” Other members of the Xaverian Missionaries spoke during the Mass on what it means to give their life for their mission, saying that “every missionary who comes in the land of missions knows that they can find this risk.” “We are missionaries, we are not politicians or other people who need total security. Our security is Christ and the Gospel that we proclaim: the rest is nothing.” Going on, the missionaries affirmed that “the Cross of Christ is not a cross that we should fear. We should carry it because we know that there is the resurrection.” The brutal martyrdom of their sisters “does not lead us to leave, but rather encourages us to stay,” they said, because “it means that we still have the need to proclaim the Gospel in this land, because the Gospel still has not reached the heart of many Burundi’s.
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