Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta (1939 – 1964) was a member of the Holy Family Sisters in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 1964, a civil war broke out across the country. The Simba rebels opposed westerners but also indigenous monks and nuns because they suspected them of cooperating with foreigners.
Simba rebels stormed her convent and attacked many of the sisters. A soldier, Colonel Pierre Colombe, killed Anuarite Nengapeta when she resisted his attempted rape. She was beaten and bayoneted and then shot to death. Between the blows she had the strength to say to her attacker: “I forgive you for you know not what you are doing.”
Sister Marie-Clementine was beatified on August 15, 1985, by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Zaire, a ceremony which drew 60,000 people. The L.A. Times reported:
“Reportedly among the worshipers but unrecognized was the man convicted of killing her, former Simba rebel Col. Pierre Olombe, now a beggar and devout Roman Catholic. He was condemned to death for the assault and served five years in prison before being pardoned by Mobutu. A number of other rebels involved in the attack on the convent were never tracked down. Through a local newspaper editor, Olombe had expressed a wish to see the pontiff and ask forgiveness. The editor passed the request along, together with the information that the girl’s parents had already forgiven Olombe.”
John Paul recounted that the martyred nun had, “like Christ,” pardoned the soldier who assaulted her. Then he added, “And I too forgive her killer with all my heart, in the name of the entire church.” She was the first Bantu woman elevated to the altars.