Pope Francis has hailed as a martyr an Italian nun who was brutally attacked and killed while caring for the poor and needy in Haiti during a suspected armed robbery.
Sister Luisa Dell’Orto, 64, was killed Sunday “during an armed aggression, probably with the aim of robbery,” in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince, according to the diocese of Milan, The Associated Press reported.
The nun, from the Little Sisters of the Gospel, died soon after being taken to hospital, two days before her 65th birthday.
Dell’Orto “made her life a gift to others, even to the point of martyrdom,” the pope said in remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, according to Vatican News.
For more than two decades, she “dedicated above all to the service of street children,” Pope Francis recalled.
“I entrust her soul to God, and I pray for the Haitian people, especially the little ones, so they can have a more serene future, without misery and without violence,” he prayed.
Responding to the pope’s mention of Dell’Orto as a martyr, the nun’s biological sister, Maria Adele Dell’Orto, said: “Here, yes, she really gave her life for the work, that is certainly a fact. She was aware that something might happen ... because it’s obvious, even in her last letter she said so, that the situation was very difficult. But she was keen to stay and bear witness.”
Last year, the nun wrote a letter to a missionary group, explaining her decision to continue her work in Haiti.
“You will tell me I am a bit crazy. Why stay here? Why expose yourself to ‘risk’? What is the point of living in such discomfort? Wouldn’t it be better for people to solve their own problems? To be able to count on someone is important in order to live! And witnessing that you can count on the solidarity that comes from faith and love of God is the greatest gift we can offer,” she wrote.
The impoverished Caribbean nation is struggling in the social and political aftermath of the assassination of President Jouvenal Moïse last July. Haiti also has yet to recover from a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 2,200 people last August.
Last year, the U.S. State Department urged Americans to “depart Haiti now.”
“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens to make plans to depart Haiti now via commercial means. U.S. citizens should carefully consider the risks of traveling to or remaining in Haiti in light of the current security situation and infrastructure challenges,” a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Haiti said.
In a 2021 interview, Dr. David Vanderpool, the founder of LiveBeyond, a Christian nonprofit organization that's been operating in Haiti for over a decade, told The Christian Post that many Haitians of faith "have turned to God more now than ever" amid natural disasters and increased crime.
“Typically, persecution increases faith for those who have faith," he said. “Introducing people to the Christian faith is a real challenging situation because many people respond differently. But many Haitians with faith have turned to God more now than ever."