ARCHBISHOP PIETRO SAMBI was remembered yesterday at a Memorial Mass celebrated at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC. Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York was the Main Celebrant and Homilist. Several American Cardinals attended (their Eminences DiNardo, Rigali, Keeler, Mahoney, Baum and George) Providentially, it was the feast of the Finding and Exaltation of the Holy Cross of Jesus.
Archbishop Dolan captured the spirit of the Apostolic Nuncio (alias Papal Ambassador to the United States). His Grace mentioned their first public encounter at a Bishop's installation. Archbishop Sambi discreetly asked Archbishop Dolan if the custom in America is for bishops to wear their pectoral cross on the outside or inside of the Mass vestments (chasuble). Dolan said that the bishops would most likely follow the lead of the Nuncio and so everyone waited to see what he would do. He, on the other hand, said he would leave it out, for awhile, then put it back inside and vice a versa, just to see the reaction of the other prelates. "Whether on the inside or outside, what really matters is that the cross rests over the heart of the bishop."
Several years later the Nuncio spoke to the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy when it had its annual meeting (at that time in DC at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center). Shortley after Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the USA, I celebrated my 20th anniversary of priesthood (May 14, 2008). Msgr. Walter Rossi was kind enough to allow me the honor of being celebrant at a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Before the Mass, I brought my mother to the Apostolic Nunciature to see Archbishop Sambi. He gave her a half hour tour and then treated us to Italian cookies and espresso. During the visit, he gave my mom a blessed rosary from the Holy Father. She then asked him if he had another one to give a young man who recently was diagnosed with eye cancer. The man was in his early thirties and had small children. My mom got flustered however, when she could not recall his name. Almost in tears, she apologized to the Nuncio. Archbishop Sambi told her "that's OK Mrs. Trigilio, I do not need to know his name to pray for him. The Good Lord knows everything and everyone. He will know who needs the grace for recovery of eyesight. Trust in Him"
That simple but profound wisdom made my mom feel much better. It was vintage Sambi. He spoke volumes with just a phrase or two.
Eternal Rest Grant Unto Him O Lord, and Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him
May He Rest in Peace.