Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the papal ambassador to the United States since 2005, died Wednesday night apparently from complications related to lung surgery, according to Vatican Radio and Catholic News Service. He was 73.
Sambi, who was based in Washington and had a long diplomatic career in the church, had been put on ventilation following lung surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore two weeks ago.
As apostolic nuncio for the United States, Sambi served dual roles as a leader in the church and a representative to the government. During Pope Benedict’s 2008 trip to the United States, Sambi accompanied the pontiff and hosted him in Washington, where Benedict met with five victims of clergy sex abuse, according to Catholic News Service.
Catholic News Service described Sambi as “an energetic and gregarious man with an ability to bring the human touch to diplomatic challenges.”
Sambi also helped arrange Pope John Paul II’s historic pilgrimage to Israel and Palestine in 2000, according to reports. In addition, he held positions with the church in Cuba, Nicaragua, Belgium and India. He was made an archbishop in 1985. Sambi was born in Italy.
His funeral will be held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in D.C. on Aug. 6.