By Dpa Correspondents, dpa
ROME/BUJUMBURA — Pope Francis on Monday led the Catholic Church’s mourning of three elderly Italian nuns, killed in Burundi following two separate attacks on the convent where they were serving as missionaries.
Sisters Olga Raschietti and Lucia Pulici, aged 75 and 82, were killed near the Burundian capital Bujumbura on Sunday. Sister Bernadetta Boggian, 79, died following a second overnight attack on the premises.
“The Holy Father begs the Lord to welcome into his kingdom of peace and light these three faithful and devout nuns,” the Vatican said in a condolence message to the Bishop of Bujumbura, Monsignor Evariste Ngoyagoye.
In a separate telegram to the nuns’ superior, Francis said he hoped that their spilt blood “may become the seed of hope to build true fraternity between peoples.”
The Burundian government said it “condemned with its last energy this tragic and awful killing of missionaries of the congregation of the Catholic Church whose social achievements are highly appreciated throughout Burundi.”
Burundian Vice President Prosper Bazombanza visited the parish in Kamenge where the killings took place.
The two nuns were beheaded and the third later murdered after unidentified people broke into the convent on Sunday afternoon, Burundian police spokesman Hermenegilde Harimenshi said.
Witnesses said the first two nuns were killed while people staying in the parish compound were attending Sunday evening mass.
“I saw a man climbing the wall of the convent, and then we heard from people in the convent that two nuns had been beheaded with a knife,” Jean-Marie Niyonkuru said.
The third nun was killed in her room after returning from the morgue where the corpses of the first two nuns had been taken, Harimenshi said.
He added that the nuns were killed with knives and that the motive of the attacks was being investigated.
The convent housed four nuns. The only one who survived is from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Police were deployed to the parish to ensure security.
The diocese of the northern Italian town of Parma, to which the nuns from the Xaverian Missionary Society of Mary were attached, said the murder of Raschietti and Pulici was the apparent “tragic result of a burglary by a deranged person.”
It also said that Boggian was “fatally wounded in a knife attack” that took place despite stepped up security measures at the convent.
Legislator Remy Barampama from the constituency where the killings took place condemned them, saying the convent had done “a lot of good and charity efforts” for local residents.
In 2011, gunmen attacked a convent in northern Ngozi province, killing a Croatian nun and an Italian aid worker. Two men who were jailed for the killings had stolen money from the convent.
The Italian nuns were based in a convent in Kamenge, a district north of Bujumbura that has long been a hotspot of ethnic violence.
Tensions have recently increased in the eastern African country, which is still reeling from a 1993-2006 civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
AFP Photo/Esdras Ndikumana
Interested in national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!