By BosNewsLife Africa Service
BUJUMBURA, BURUNDI (BosNewsLife)-- Pope Francis on Monday, September 8, expressed his condolences for the violent deaths of three elderly Italian nuns in Burundi, underscoring the dangers of missionaries working in the region.
Two of the 'Xaverian Missionaries of Mary' nuns, 75-year-old Lucia Pulici – who had been due to celebrate her birthday Monday – and Olga Raschietti, 82, were found dead in their mission of Kamenge on Sunday, September 7, church officials said.
The third nun, 79-year-old Bernardetta Boggian, was discovered early Monday, September 9, by priest Mario Pulcini, who said he had rushed to the convent after a panicked phone call from the nuns after hearing unusual noises in the house.
"The murders appear to be the tragic outcome of an armed robbery or a vendetta" he told Vatican Radio, adding "that nothing can justify the killing."
In telegrams Pope Francis expressed "sorrow at hearing of the murders" and "his spiritual closeness to the victims' community, to their families and the whole Bujumbura archdiocese".
The telegrams were send to Archbishop Evariste Ngoyagoye of the capital Bujumbura and Ines Frizza, Superior General of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary.
The murdered nuns have been working among the sick and poor in Burundi for the last seven years, Catholic sources said.
Previously they had been missionaries in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Olga Raschietti spent the last fifty years of her life in Africa.
Fellow nuns in Parma told reporters that they were shocked by the killings and that the Kamenge mission is “full of people” who have come to mourn the nuns and express their solidarity.
"Sister Lucia worked mostly as a care-giver treating thousands of sick people” and was very involved in parish life. She was very well loved by the people," Pulcini said. "Sister Olga had great sensitivity for the sick, making efforts to fill their specific needs," he added.
The priest also recalled that "Sister Bernardetta, who was superior for many years, dedicated herself mostly to the sewing school they had set up for girls."
The three nuns were reportedly also remembered in a special mass in Vicenza, in northern Italy.
Their deaths have come amid wider concerns about the dangers faced by Christian missionaries working in several parts of Africa.