Comboni Missionary Sister Maria de Coppi had served nearly 60 years in Mozambique before she was killed.
Courtney Mares is a Rome Correspondent for Catholic News Agency. A graduate of Harvard University, she has reported from three continents and won the Gardner Fellowship for her work with North Korean refugees.
By: Courtney Mares
Pope Francis in his Angelus address on September 11 honored an Italian Comboni Missionary Sister who was killed by Islamist terrorists in Mozambique.
Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on September 11, the pope said: “In this moment of prayer, it is dear to me to remember Sister Maria de Coppi, Comboni Missionary, killed in Chipene, Mozambique, where she served with love for almost 60 years. . . . May her witness give strength and courage to Christians and all the people of Mozambique.”
Sister Maria de Coppi was shot and killed when terrorists ransacked and burned the Catholic mission where she served in Mozambique’s Diocese of Nacala.
The Italian priests and Sisters who served at the mission were able to evacuate 68 students who were living at the mission before the church, boarding houses, rectory, and school were destroyed in the five-hour attack on the night of September 6.
Sister Maria was about to flee with the other missionaries when she turned back out of concern for the 12 female students who had stayed behind at the mission, according to Aid to the Church in Need.
The 83-year-old religious Sister left a voicemail for her niece, Sister Gabriella Bottani, shortly before her death, the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported.
In the voicemail, Sister Maria said that Al-Shabaab insurgents were close to the mission and the situation was “very tense.”
“It appears that they are armed, that they have already kidnapped people, killed someone,” she said.
“Wherever they pass, they carry out massacres.” A missionary in Mozambique told Aid to the Church in Need that the local insurgents who have been targeting Christians in the region have ties to the Islamic State.
Bishop Alberto Vera of Nacala said that the attackers “destroyed everything” at the Chipene mission
“The attackers broke open the tabernacle and vandalized part of the sacristy, looking for whatever they could find — probably money,” he added.