Pope Francis has formally recognised the martyrdom of an Italian Sister murdered in Somalia in 2006, clearing the way for her beatification.

Consolata Sister Leonella Sgorbati and her bodyguard were shot dead as they left the children’s hospital where she worked in Mogadishu. Their deaths in September 2006 came amid rising tensions in the Muslim world over a speech that Pope Benedict XVI had given in Regensburg, Germany, quoting a Christian emperor’s criticism of Islam.

Most Islamic leaders in Somalia condemned the killing, emphasising that Sister Leonella was dedicating her efforts to the Somali people. She was 65 at the time, had worked in Africa for 35 years and had been in Somalia since 2001.

Rosa Maria Sgorbati, born in 1940, joined the Consolata Mission Sisters in 1963 and made her perpetual profession of vows in 1972, taking the name Leonella. She spent years teaching nurses in Kenya and from 1993 to 1999 was regional superior of her order in the country.

In 2002 she set up a nursing school in Mogadishu.

On September 17 2006, four days after returning from a holiday in Italy, she and her guard were killed as they crossed the road. Her final words were “I forgive; I forgive; I forgive.”

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