The following communique from the Vatican Secretariat of State, was published late last night, after the news of the assassination of Archbishop Michael Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi: "The tragic event took place in Minago, a town 50 kilometres from the capital, Bujumbura, where the prelate had gone in order to carry out pastoral obligations. "The automobile in which the pontifical representative was travelling this afternoon, with a priest, wounded in the attack, a driver and another person, was shot at with fire arms from a nearby hill. Archbishop Courtney, who was taken with great difficulty to the closest hospital in Bujumbura, did not regain consciousness due to serious wounds which provoked an uncontrollable haemorrhage. Despite the doctors' efforts, the prelate died during emergency surgery. "Upon hearing the news, the Holy Father recollected himself in prayer, entrusting to Christ, the Good Shepherd, the soul of this faithful and generous servant of the Church and the Holy See, who died while carrying out his difficult mission. Afterward he conveyed to the family members of the late archbishop his profound sentiments of participation in the sorrow that afflicts them. "Archbishop Michael Aidan Courtney, of Irish origin, was appointed apostolic nuncio of Burundi by His Holiness John Paul II on August 18, 2000. Previously, he had lent his inestimable collaboration in pontifical representations in South Africa, Senegal, India, Yugoslavia and Egypt. Before being appointed to Bujumbura, for almost five years he served as permanent observer of the Holy See to the Council of Europe at Strasbourg, France. "With the death of Archbishop Courtney, the list of missionaries who have given their life for the Gospel during 2003 grows longer. And now, for the first time, the name of a pontifical representative is added to that list of generous faithful. May the Lord grant them eternal rest!" Telegram In a telegram to Archbishop Simon Ntamwana of Gitega, president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Burundi, Pope John Paul II said: "Deeply saddened by the tragic news of the violent death of Archbishop Michael A Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, I would like to express my spiritual closeness and my compassion to the Episcopal Conference and the Catholic Church in Burundi. I ask the Lord of life to accept him into His kingdom of light and peace, he who manifested the daily concern of the Successor of Peter for more than three years to all the citizens of Burundi and I invite everyone to commit themselves to follow Christ, rejecting violence, which is a path without a future, and to build up lasting peace, based on justice, respect for others and security for all. As a sign of comfort, I impart the apostolic blessing on you and all the people affected by this drama so that God may watch over you in peace and hope." Source: MISNA
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