Italian missionary nun killed in Mozambique

Almudena Martínez-Bordiú
Catholic News Agency
Original article

Sister Maria De Coppi, a Comboni missionary sister, was murdered by Islamist terrorists on Tuesday in Mozambique, where she had served as a missionary for nearly 60 years.

The attack in which Sister Maria de Coppi, 83, was shot and killed was carried out the night of Sept. 6 in Chipene.

In the attack on the mission, which lasted five hours, the terrorists ransacked and burned the mission’s church, school, health center, dwellings, library, and vehicles.

“They destroyed everything,” Bishop Alberto Vera of Nacala told the pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“The attackers broke open the tabernacle and vandalized part of the sacristy, looking for whatever they could find — probably money,” he added.

Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi said: “On the 6th of September, as a result of terrorist attacks, six citizens were beheaded, three kidnapped, six terrorists were captured, and dozens of houses torched in the districts of Erati and Memba, Nampula province.”

The terrorists were fleeing from soldiers from Mozambique, Rwanda, and the Southern African Development Community.

The Chipene mission included two Italian missionary priests, Fathers Lorenzo Barro and Loris Vignadel, and at least three foreign religious sisters: two Italians and one Spaniard. All but Sister Maria survived the attack.

The mission’s boarding school was evacuated of all its 35 male students and most of its 45 female students, according to Aid to the Church in Need.

The religious had been taking in displaced persons fleeing from Islamist terrorist groups.

The pontifical charity reported that “According to eyewitness reports … the terrorists had arrived at the sisters’ convent and forced them to leave. The other religious sisters had fled together with the girls, but Sister Maria, who was about to leave the house, suddenly thought of the little ones who might still be in the house and came back. It was then that they shot her.”

According to Corriere del Veneto, Sister Maria left a voicemail for her niece, Gabriella Bottani, shortly before her death.

In the message the nun explained to her niece that the situation had become complicated because “the group they call al-Shabaab, the insurgents, is very close.”

“On Friday they attacked a place in our parish and it seems that yesterday a group entered here, and they are very close. It seems that they are armed, they have already kidnapped people, they have killed people. Wherever they pass, they carry out massacres,” Sister Maria explained.

She then said that “all the people here are fleeing, running away. Today a Father told me that the girls from the [boarding school] should return home and that the four aspirants of the Comboni Sisters will also return to Nampula because there is danger.”

“The situation is sad, very sad,” the missionary continued. “All the people sleep outdoors in the forest, among the plants; those who can, go to the towns of Alua, Mazua, and the centers where they are a little more protected. But many people are still sleeping outside, in the woods. It’s sad.”

Sister Maria repeated several times that it’s “a very sad situation” and that “everyone is escaping: nurses, priests, everyone.”

“They’re shooting here. We’ll see each other in paradise. They are burning the house. If you don’t hear from me anymore, I take the opportunity to apologize for my shortcomings and to tell you that I loved you very much. Remember me in prayer,” said Sister Maria.

“I have forgiven those who will kill me,” she said. “You do the same. A hug from me.”