VATICAN CITY (AP) — The papal ambassador to the United States Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who helped bring about a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and clerical sex abuse victims three years ago, has died in a U.S. hospital, the Vatican said Thursday.
Sambi, 73, died Wednesday in Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore where he had been placed on assisted ventilation. He had undergone surgery two weeks ago and was readmitted to the hospital following postoperative complications.
The Italian prelate had served as papal representative in Washington since 2006, one of Pope Benedict XVI's first major appointees. Previous posts in the Vatican's diplomatic corps included Israel and Indonesia.
In his Washington assignment, Sambi helped arrange a meeting between abuse victims and Benedict, one of the highlights of the pope's 2008 visit to the United States.
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, who had been sent to Boston after the archdiocese was rocked by the scandal, had invited Benedict to the city. When Boston was not included in the trip, he worked with Sambi to bring Benedict and victims together in Washington.
O'Malley mourned Sambi's passing on Thursday, saying he represented the Pope with distinction and great skill in the United States.
"He was an engaging and dedicated leader who had great love for a deep commitment to the Catholic faithful of our country," O'Malley said in a statement. "The Archbishop was a good and holy man and he will be greatly missed."
The previous year, Sambi caused a stir when he described difficulties in Vatican-Israeli relations, blaming the Jewish state in an interview for failing to keep promises related to church land, taxes and travel restrictions on Arab clergy.
The Vatican said the interview was a reflection of his personal experiences during his former diplomatic posting.