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Killers guilty of sin of sacrilege

VATICAN CITY (CNS): Those responsible for the murder of the Vatican’s ambassador to Burundi are guilty of “the sin of sacrilege” and should be brought to justice, the bishops of Burundi said.

The country’s bishops offered their condolences to the family of Irish Archbishop Michael A. Courtney, 58, who was shot in an ambush on December 29 as he was returning by car to Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital. He was struck by several bullets, including one in the head, and died a few hours later in a Bujumbura hospital.

The archbishop’s body was flown to Dublin on January 2 and his funeral and burial were held the next day in Nenagh, the archbishop’s home town.

Cardinal Desmond Connell of Dublin said he was “greatly distressed” by the murder of Archbishop Courtney.

Burundi’s bishops condemned the killing, saying Archbishop Courtney was “an apostle of love and of peace” who for three years worked “night and day” to promote dialogue and find a way to end the ethnic fighting which has plagued Burundi.

“In killing a bishop, the murderers committed the sin of sacrilege; they have profaned a gift of God,” the statement said.

The bishops asked the Burundi government to fulfil its promise to investigate the shooting, “to identify the authors and the motive for this crime and to bring the guilty to justice”.

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