Xaverian missionary sisters Lucia Pulici (age 75), Bernadetta Boggian (79), and Olga Raschietti (82) were raped and murdered at their convent in Bujumbura, Burundi over the weekend. (The Xaverian Missionaries are denying the rapes, which were reported by Godefroid Bizimana, Deputy Director General of Burundian police. It’s currently unclear whether two or all three of the nuns were decapitated.)
Pope Francis offered his condolences, saying “Il loro sangue versato diventi seme di speranza per costruire l’autentica fraternità tra i popoli.” (Roughly, “May their blood be a seed of hope for building authentic brotherhood among peoples.”)
The motive is not yet known, but police suspect it may have been a robbery “by a mentally unbalanced person,” and have detained two suspects.
Burundi, a largely Christian country, is one of the poorest places in the world. Catholics make up 60-65% of the population.
Olga Raschietti had just turned 83 years old and had been in Kamenge, Burundi, since 2010. According to the statement, Olga declared in July, 2013,: “I am about to turn 80 years old. In my last trip to Italy, my superiors were uncertain whether to let me leave. One day, during worship, I prayed, ‘Jesus, Thy will be done; But you know that I still want to go.’ In my mind I heard these words with crystal clarity: ‘Olga, you think you are to save Africa? Africa is mine. Nevertheless, I am glad that you are going. Go and give your life.’ From that moment on, I no longer doubted.” Sister Olga’s brother told ANSA News today: “She died for her vocation, and despite the pain at the human level, as a Christian I am proud. She is already in heaven.”
Lucia Pulici would have turned 76 today. She was born on September 8, 1939 in Desio, near Milan and became a missionary in 1960, at the age of 21. Last October, according to the statement, she said: “Now I am returning to Burundi. Though at my age I am physically weak and limited, inwardly, I think I can say that my drive and desire to be faithful to Jesus’ love expressed in the mission is very much alive. The mission helps me to tell Him in my weakness, ‘Jesus, look, it’s my gesture of love for you.’”
Bernadette Boggian was 79 years old and had been working in Burundi since 2007. The order’s statement relates that in August 2013, on the eve of her departure for the new Burundi, she had written: “We need to nurture in ourselves a gaze of sympathy, respect and appreciation of the values of the cultures, traditions of the people we meet. This attitude, besides giving peace of mind to the missionary, helps us more easily find the appropriate language and gestures to communicate the Gospel. Despite the complex situation and conflict in the countries of the Great Lakes, I seem to sense the presence of a Kingdom of love that is being built, growing like a mustard seed.”
May their faith and willingness to serve people in the worst part of the world shine like an example to all of us.