This week, a special farewell ceremony was held in Jerusalem for Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the Pope’s ambassador in Israel, formally known as the Papal Nuncio.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi has been reassigned as the Papal Nuncio to the USA, and he will be based in Washington.
I know this man. During his tenure in Jerusalem, since 1998, the Papal Nuncio proved his sensitivity to anti-semitism.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi is open to reviewing information that comes to his attention and is not afraid to take a stand which may make him enemies in some circles.
During the summer of 2000, our news agency purchased five sets of the new Palestinian Authority school books from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education.
This was the first time that the PA issued their own school books. the content of the books would indicate their disposition towards peace and reconciliation with Israel.
I personally travelled every day for the better part of a week during August 2000 to purchase the books, and met with PA Deputy Minister Naim Abu Humous, who asked that the books get wide publicity. I assured him of such. When Arabic speaking colleagues took a first glance at the books, they were shocked to see that the books represented a new tool of indoctrination for war against Israel. The translations of the books are now posted at ww.edume.org
I brought a set of the books to the Dr. Shlomo Ben Ami, the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs and showed him the books, and the new maps that deleted Israel for every PA school child to see.
He shrugged his shoulders. It was if he was looking at the Manhattan telephone book.
As I left the minister’s his office, Archbishop Pietro Sambi called me on my cell phone with a request: Could I bring the PA school books to him immediately. – “the Pope wants to see them”. The honorary chairman of the ADL in Israel, Mr. Jack Padwa, had informed the Archbishop that I had purchased these books.
Having never received a Papal request on my cell phone before, I took a taxi to the Archbishop’s office on the Mount of Olives and delivered the books to the Archbishop – the set that the Israel Minister of Foreign Affairs did not want to look at.
Archbishop Sambi brought the books with him to Rome, and initiated a study of the PA textbooks, which the Vatican determined to be anti-semitic in nature. And at the recommendation of Archbishop Sambi, the Italian government pulled its money out of the Palestinian Ministry of Education’s PA text book project.
Archbishop Sambi later told me with his wry sense of humor that before calling my cell phone, he had called my home and my office where my children and my secretary thought that this was a prank, and that I could not possibly have been receiving a personal call from the Vatican’s ambassador.
This was not the only time that Archbishop Sambi stuck his neck out to attack PA antisemitism.
I covered a talk given by the Vatican ambassador for an American congressional delegation, during which he excoriated the US officials for US AID funding of the Palestinian State constitution, which the Archbishop described as denying any juridical status to Judaism, anywhere in Palestine, which he viewed as an “outrage”. The status of Christianity is not much better in their new constitution, according to the Archbishop. And over the past few years, the Archbishop has let his voice be heard concerning the persecution of Christians in the PA.
Archbishop Sambi was the first and only member of the diplomatic corps to object to the death sentence meted out by the Palestinian Authority to dissidents, as if they were “collaborators”.
Meanwhile, throuhgout his term in office, Archbishop Sambi often asked to be briefed concerning reports of official anti-semitism from the PA media, and from the PA mosques, and he expressed his displeasure of such with Arafat and now with Abbas – this, at a time when Israel’s official anti-incitement committee in the Israel Foreign Ministry has not met for more than a year.
And when the PA spokespeople announced in August that they would burn the synagogues in Gush Katif, Archbishop Sambi personally intervened.
After all, Archbishop Sambi noted, if the Moslem authorities had guarded the ancient synagogue in the center of Gaza from desecration, why could they not do so again with the Jewish holy sites that would now be abandoned. However, his voice was not heard.
Archbishop Pietro Sambi now flies to Washington, to the nation that sponsors the Middle East peace process.
This man will convey a formula of middle east peace to Washington that will transcend any ceremony on any White House lawn.