Friday, June 7, 2019
Giuseppe Sandri was born in Faedo, Trento, on 26 August 1946. On the 30th of May he died after a short illness of two months. From 27 March to 30 May he was admitted to hospital due to a perforated ulcer. He was 72 years old when the Lord called him to himself on the Ascension Feast. He died in the early hours of the day. […]

26 August 1946 – 30 May 2019

Bishop Giuseppe Sandri.

Giuseppe Sandri was born in Faedo, Trento, on 26 August 1946. On the 30th of May he died after a short illness of two months. From 27 March to 30 May he was admitted to hospital due to a perforated ulcer. He was 72 years old when the Lord called him to himself on the Ascension Feast. He died in the early hours of the day.

On the 15th of August 1971, he made his perpetual profession in the Institute of Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, after his theological studies in the United States, where he obtained a master's degree in Theology. He was ordained on 27 May 1972 and shortly afterwards left for South Africa, as a missionary. He worked for several years in pastoral work in the diocese of Lydenburg-Witbank, in the north of the country. During these years of pastoral work, he was involved in various works and in particular coordinating the work of translating the Bible into the local language, Xitsonga, which he knew well. In 1992 he was elected provincial superior of the Comboni missionaries in South Africa. In 1999 he was called to Rome to work in the general administration as secretary general until 2007. In 2007 he returned to South Africa and was again elected provincial superior, a ministry he exercised for only two years because at the end of 2009 the Holy Father appointed him bishop of the diocese of Witbank. On 31 January he was ordained bishop in Maria Trost, Lydenburg, the first mission of the Comboni missionaries in South Africa. He took over the leadership of the diocese, replacing Bishop Paul Khumalo.

From that day on, Bishop Joseph Sandri placed himself entirely at the service of God's people in Mpumalanga as their pastor. He tirelessly visited the Christian communities, supported and accompanied the priests in their ministry, promoted the different vocations, encouraged the laity to be protagonists of evangelization, keeping in mind the Comboni motto:  save Africa with Africa.

As a true son of Saint Daniel Comboni, he could repeat the same words of Comboni when he assumed the responsibility for the Vicariate of Central Africa, in his homily in the Cathedral of Khartoum: " Come day come night, come sun come rain, I shall always be equally ready to serve your spiritual needs: the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the young and the old, the masters and the servants will always have equal access to my heart. Your good will be mine and your sorrows will also be mine. I make common cause with each one of you, and the happiest day in my life will be the one on which I will be able to give my life for you” (Writtings 3158- 3159)

Bishop Sandri distinguished himself as a very joyful, truly human person, close to the people, loving them and dedicating himself tirelessly to the people of South Africa. In fact, in an interview in which he was reminded that he should come more often to Trent to be with his family, he said: “I love my Trentino, but South Africa has taken possession of my heart”.

The funeral of Msgr. Sandri takes place on June 6, in South Africa, at the town hall of Witbank. In his village, Faedo, on June 9, a commemorative mass is celebrated presided over by the Archbishop of Trento, Mons. Lauro Tisi.

The Comboni missionaries entrusted Bishop Sandri to the mercy of God and with the certainty that comes from faith, they believe from heaven he will continue to accompany each of us and in particular the South African people towards true justice and peace.

Message of Fr. Jeremias dos Santos Martins
in the funeral mass of Bishop Giuseppe Sandri

Witbank, 6th June 2019

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(Jn. 10:10-11)

Dear bishops of South Africa, Botswana and Swaziland and civil authorities here present
Dear priests, deacons, religious and faithful of the diocese of Witbank
Dear relatives of Bishop Sandri…
Dear Comboni Missionaries, our confreres working in this Comboni Province of South Africa

It was with great sorrow and pain that we learned of the death of our Comboni Brother Bishop Joseph Sandri. Although we knew of his critical health situation, it was a surprise the news of his death. The Lord called him, precisely on the day when this Local Church was celebrating the Lord's Ascension into Heaven. We are sure that the Lord ascended into heaven taking our brother Joe with him.

Today we are here to pray for the eternal rest of Bishop Sandri, to pray for this diocesan family of Witbank and the people of SA, to pray for his relatives and for the Comboni family.

We are here to thank God for the gift of his life, the gift of his priestly and Comboni missionary vocation, to thank his family who gave him generously for the service of the Kingdom. We are grateful to this Church, the people of God with their pastors, the Comboni missionaries and the people who accompanied Bishop Sandri during his illness. A special mention goes to Dr. Emanuel Taban, who accompanied him and treated him as a son cares for his father.

Today, we want above all to celebrate the life of Bishop Joe Sandri, his dedication and his missionary service in the Church and in the Comboni Institute. If we could sum up his life in a few words, we should say that there are three characteristics that distinguish him: his joy, his unconditional service to the people of God and a deep sense of belonging to the Comboni family.

Monsignor Sandri was a joyful person, a joy that he expressed with his good mood, laughter and sense of humour. A profound joy rooted in God, in the certainty of his vocation and in the deep feeling of God’s faithful presence in his life. 

His episcopal motto "venio ministrare", that is, "I come to serve" sums up his dedication and his journey of identification with Christ, the Good Shepherd, who came to serve and to give his life so that others may have life. We can safely say that it was his generosity and unconditional surrender to the Kingdom of God that consumed his human fibre from the Trentino mountains and led him to spend his life to the point of death. His missionary zeal, his long journeys through his extensive diocese and his desire to be present in the different events of the life of the people of God led him to exhaustion and death. He could say as Jesus did in the Gospel of John: "No one takes my life away from me, I give it to them”. His service was transformed into closeness to the people, compassion and concrete help to the needy.

His sense of belonging to the Institute was expressed by his love for the Comboni family which he served in different ministries, as provincial superior in South Africa and as Secretary General of the Institute, in Rome. He incarnated Saint Daniel Comboni’s charism especially in his love and dedication for the people of Africa. The words of Comboni addressed to the African people in Khartoum, “the happiest of my days will be the one when I give my life for you” can fit very well in Bishop Sandri’s life. He used to say to the people in his diocese of Trento: "I like my Trentino, but now South Africa has taken possession of my heart".

Dear Joe Sandri, today is the happiest day of your life because you gave yourself completely for the people of Witbank; now is the time to be always at the service of the people of God, in a generous  and unlimited way; today we feel your presence, your smile, your laughter; at this moment, we can say that heaven and earth touch each other and you become mediator and intercessor for this church, in the image of the One and Only mediator and intercessor Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd of the Pierced Heart.

We want to ask you to continue looking after this portion of the People of God inspiring our journey with your example. Intercede before the Father for the people of Mpumalanga and for the Church of South Africa; intercede for priests, religious and missionaries and raise up in our midst new vocations for the service of the Gospel.

We know that you are still present among us and that as a pilgrim you continue to accompany from eternity the people whom you have loved and who have loved you too.

May you rest in peace in God’s embrace! Hambe kahle!  (go well)

On behalf of the Superior General and his Council
Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus