September 22 2006
Hundreds say farewell to Sister Leonella
22/09/2006 - Hundreds of people filled the Consolata Chapel in Nairobi on 21 September to attend a mass for Sister Leonella Sgorbati. She was killed together with her bodyguard on Sunday 17 September outside the SOS Children's Village in Mogadishu, just opposite the SOS Hospital where she ran the SOS Nursing School.
The mass, which was presided over by the Bishop of Djibouti, Georgio Bertin, was attended by the Italian ambassador to Kenya, the Kenya UN representative, the World Health Organisation Somalia representative, representatives from Kenya's government and a delegation from SOS-Kinderdorf International, headed by Regional Director East Africa, Willy Huber.
Bishop Georgio knew Sister Leonella personally. She was killed along with her Somali bodyguard, Mahamud Mohammed Osman. "A European and an African, a white and a (nearly) black, a Christian and a Muslim, a woman and a man". Yet, he added, they lived and they died together. Sister Leonella's message, he stressed, was one of togetherness, "together life is possible".
Message from the Pope
A message from Pope Benedict was read out at the mass in which he asked people to take inspiration from the life of Sister Leonella.
After the mass Sister Leonella's body was driven to the Nazareth Hospital about 20 kms from Nairobi, where she once worked. There she was taken to the small graveyard to lie alongside other departed Italian nuns who had given their lives to Africa. The burial, under cloudy skies filled with impending rain, was solemn and dignified, yet very poignant as the nuns continued to sing farewell to their friend.
In his sermon Bishop Georgio said that Sister Leonella's epitaph could well be the words, "I tried’ something she often said in her daily life. But perhaps, in the cause of world peace, it would be more fitting to remember her final words, as she lay dying, "I forgive, I forgive…". Rest in Peace Sister Leonella.