Missionaries Appeal for Mercy for Priest's Killer

Burkina Faso Youth Could Face Death Penalty

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ROME, JULY 10, 2002 (Zenit.org).- A religious congregation is asking mercy for the murderer of a missionary priest in the west African country of Burkina Faso.

The victim, Father Celestino Digiovambattista, of the Congregation of St. Camillus de Lellis, was chaplain of the capital’s civil hospital and prisons.

A mentally unstable youth fatally wounded him last October while the priest was attending to prisoners in Ouagadougou, the capital, the Misna missionary agency reported.

Under this nation’s law, the youth could face the death penalty, despite his mental state.

«We do not want capital punishment applied to the accused,» Father Salvatore Pignatelli explained, director of the St. Camillus medical center in Ouagadougou.

«As Christians, we cannot accept it,» he said. «Moreover, Celestino, my brother in the congregation, forgave his murderer, when he was dying. In addition, the forgiveness of both the victim’s natural family and his religious family must be kept in mind.»

Father Celestino’s family and his congregation have both decided not to prosecute.

The priest was born in Massa d’Albe, Italy, in 1934. In 1972 he went to what was then called Upper Volta.

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