Sisters’ killer arrested, confesses in Burundi

Thousands mourn three Xaverian sisters’ tragic deaths.

Last weekend three Italian religious sisters serving in Burundi were brutally murdered in their convent. Yesterday, a man was arrested and confessed to the crime, according to police:

[The killer] was found with the cellphone of one of the victims and the keys to their convent. Earlier Tuesday the Xaverian order denied reports the three were raped. One of the elderly nuns, who were working as missionaries, was decapitated in attacks with no apparent motive. The victims are Bernadette Boggian, 79, and Olga Raschietti, 83, both originally from the Veneto region; and Lucia Pulici, 75, who was originally from Lombardy.

Godefroid Bizimana, vice director-general of the Burundi police, said that Boggian was found to have been beheaded in the attacks which apparently occurred several hours apart in the nuns’ convent in the city of Kamenge north of the national capital. All three women were in poor health, but their love of Africa and especially Burundi drove them to continue to work there, said a leader of their Xaverian order. …

A botched robbery attempt was an early theory for the attack, but was reportedly dismissed because nothing appeared to have been stolen. Two of the three nuns were found with their throats slit, an anonymous police official said, while Kamenge Mayor Damien Baseka described the murders as “savage”. The bodies of Pulici and Raschietti were found on Sunday afternoon, leading to initial reports that only two nuns had been killed. Boggian’s body was found several hours later. It is believed that Boggian discovered her two slain colleagues, alerted police and Church officials, and several hours later was herself murdered and beheaded by an attacker who apparently had remained hidden in the convent after the initial violence.

Earlier this week Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the sisters’ death in telegrams to the archbishop of Bujumbura, Burundi and to the superior general of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters of Mary. “Deeply saddened by the tragic death of the Xaverian Missionary Sisters killed in Burundi, the Holy Father wishes to assure his heartfelt participation in the profound suffering of the congregation for the loss of such dedicated sisters and, in the hope that the blood they have shed may become the seed of hope to build true fraternity between peoples, he raises fervent prayers for the eternal repose of their souls and for their generous witness of the Gospel,” the telegram to Sister Giordana Bertacchini read.

Today as many as three thousand mourners were reported to have attended a Mass in memory of the sisters in Bujumbura; tomorrow the sisters will be buried in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where they had served previously and where the Xaverian order has a church.

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About Catherine Harmon 577 Articles
Catherine Harmon is managing editor of Catholic World Report.