Killed Italian envoy’s widow tearfully tells pope of husband’s aid work
By Philip Pullella
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Muslim widow of the Italian ambassador killed last year in Democratic Republic of Congo broke into tears on Wednesday as she told Pope Francis of her Catholic husband’s commitment to help African children.
Luca Attanasio, his bodyguard Vittorio Iacovacci and their driver Mustapha Milambo were killed during a botched kidnapping on a road in eastern Congo as they were heading to visit a United Nations humanitarian project at a school.
He became a national hero in Italy, leaving behind his wife, Zakia Seddiki, and three small daughters. The audience broke into sustained applause when she mentioned his name at an international meeting of families at the Vatican.
Seddiki, a Moroccan from Casablanca, spoke of how her husband loved children and of his support for an NGO she had founded to help homeless women and street children in Africa.
Breaking up several times, she also spoke about how their religious differences were a gift and not a hindrance in their marriage.
“We learned, step by step, to live together without judging each other, because we always believed in the same God who asks us, in two different holy books, the Bible and the Koran, to love our neighbour, to do good and never evil, to respect others,” she said.
“In our home these two books were always present, we always read them to our little girls and with Luca, hand in hand, we often prayed together in any part of the world,” she said.
As the pope listened intently, she recounted how marking the Moslem fasting period of Ramadan together “brought us closer to the suffering of every child who lacks food and water every day”.
The pope told her that her husband’s example and spiritual heritage “remain alive and speak to the consciences of many”.
The pope was to have visited the area where Attanasio was killed during a trip to DRC and South Sudan next month but it was cancelled because of his difficulty walking.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Richard Chang)