From the homily given by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Secretary of State, during a solemn requiem Mass on January 8in St Peter’s in memory of Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi brutally assassinated on 29 December.
“Our beloved Apostolic Nuncio taught us the art of Christian living - Cardinal Sodano said in his homily -. A son of the noble land of Ireland, he carried his adamantine faith along the roads of the world. In the footsteps of Christ, the Good Shepherd, he gave his life for the people of Burundi, to whom the Pope had sent him as an apostle of peace. In every corner of that tormented country, Mons. Michael made resound again the powerful words pronounced by the Pope during his historical visit to Burundi in September 1990: «Peace, peace! Forgiveness and love!». And the Apostolic Nuncio was an example of love for those beloved people.”
Referring to the tragic episode on 29 December Cardinal Sodano said “once again Cain raised his hand to strike his brother Abel!… shocked by the tragedy the Catholic community in Burundi gathered immediately to pray to ask the Lord to grant the reward of the just to one who had been a shining example of apostolic commitment in the three years of his service in that Nunciature. The funeral, held on 31 December in Bujumbura Cathedral di Bujumbura, revealed the veneration with which the late Mons. Michael was regarded in that tormented nation.” In a message issued on the sad occasion the Bishops of Burundi praised the Nuncio’s heroic testimony: «Day and night, without respite, Monsignor Michael Courtney helped Burundians to rebuild among themselves understanding and harmony through dialogue... He spared no effort to bring together all Burundians without exception. In this way he demonstrated that there is no other path for the salvation of our country except that of dialogue, consultation and definitive rejection of homicide and assassination as political means.» Cardinal Sodano underlined that Archbishop Courtney’s death “is nothing but a bridge from one life to another, the earthly life and the heavenly life; it is nothing but a bridge between the banks of human existence” and this should prompt reflection: “It is a warning to consider life as a mission to be fulfilled, a way to be walked along the path which Providence has traced for us, to always keep our loins girded and our lamps burning.” (S.L.) (Fides Service 20/3/2004 lines 29; words 433)