Salvatore Colombo

Salvatore Colombo

The Most Rev. Dr. Pietro Salvatore Monsignor Colombo, O.F.M., Bishop of Mogadiscio, was born 28 October 1922 in Carate Brianza, Italy. He was murdered on 9 July 1989 in Mogadishu, Somalia.

Biography

He served the people of Somalia from 1946, after he had been ordained a priest in Milan, Italy, until his death 43 years later. He was appointed as the first Bishop of Mogadishu in 1975, and ordained as Bishop of Mogadishu on 16 March 1976.

Bishop Colombo was well regarded by non-Catholics, whether Muslim or secular. Bishop Colombo was known for his pragmatic oversight of aid projects, making sure that aid projects could operate after the foreign aid workers went home. The government of President Siad Barre did not tolerate proselytizing, but was comfortable with the humanitarian aid dispensed by the Church. 

Bishop Colombo was killed in his cathedral by an unknown assassin. President Barre blamed radical Islamists and offered a bounty for their capture.  But many people believed that Barre had ordered the assassination, perhaps because Bishop Colombo had been critical of the Barre regime  or perhaps because Barre wanted a scapegoat which would increase military and other aid from Western governments, or perhaps because Bishop Colombo had helped a clan which was out of favor with Barre purchase some land.  To this day, the controversy of who killed Bishop Colombo persists although his murder is seen as a turning point for Islamic/secular relations because of the severe crackdown by Barre in response to the murder.

No bishop has been appointed for Mogadishu since Monsignor Colombo’s death. Currently, the welfare of Catholics in Somalia is overseen by an Apostolic Administrator. Dr. Giorgio Bertin, who is also the Apostolic Administrator of Mogadishu.

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