Italy Honors Slain Ambassador and Bodyguard, Prays for Congo

February 25, 2021 Updated: February 25, 2021

ROME—Italy paid tribute to its ambassador to Congo and his bodyguard who were killed in an attack on a United Nations convoy, honoring them with a state funeral and prayers for peace in Congo and all nations “torn by war and violence.”

Carabinieri paramilitary police carry the caskets
Carabinieri paramilitary police carry the caskets of the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio and Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, draped with the Italian flag, at the end of their state, in Rome’s Santa Maria degli Angeli Church, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Andrew Medichini/AP Photo/)

Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, the pope’s vicar for Rome, presided over the solemn funeral at the Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica that was attended by Premier Mario Draghi, top lawmakers, representatives of the armed forces, and relatives of the young men.

Ambassador Luca Attanasio and Carabiniere paramilitary officer Vittorio Iacovacci were killed north of Goma on Feb. 22 when an armed group stopped them as they traveled in a two-car convoy to a World Food Program school feeding project. WFP’s Congolese driver, Moustapha Milambo, also was killed in the attack.

A Carabinieri officer attends the funeral of the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo
A Carabinieri officer attends the funeral of the Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio and Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, in Rome, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Andrew Medichini/AP Photo/)

Italy has formally asked the U.N. for an inquiry into what happened amid questions about whether U.N. security arrangements were sufficient for the mission.

In his eulogy, De Donatis decried the “stupid and ferocious” attack and said it was right that Italy, Congo, and the community of nations weep over such violence that “tore Luca and Vittorio from this world.”

The casket of Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci
The casket of Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, draped in the Italian flag, is driven away at the end of the state funeral for Italian Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio and Iacovacci, in Rome, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Andrew Medichini/AP Photo/)

“Let us pray together that today is a day in which the prayer for peace in Congo and in all nations torn by various forms of war and violence is raised to heaven,” he said.

He denounced how so many Congolese feel the constant threat of danger from rebel groups “knocking at their door,” saying the country had been “cruelly devastated by violence that sees their children die every day.”

But he praised the men for working for peace and looking out for others “even at the cost of their own lives.”

“If this the fate of peace workers, what will be the fate of the rest of us?” he asked.

Zakia Seddiki, wife of the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio
Zakia Seddiki, wife of the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio, holds one of her children at the end of the state funeral for Attanasio and Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, in Rome, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Andrew Medichini/AP Photo)

The funeral, carried live on state RAI television, featured masked Carabinieri officers as pallbearers and altar servers, with a military band performing Chopin’s haunting “Funeral March” as the flag-draped coffins were carried in and out of the basilica.

Domenica Benedetto, partner of Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci
Domenica Benedetto, partner of Italian Carabinieri police officer Vittorio Iacovacci, arrives for the state funeral of Iacovacci and the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo Luca Attanasio, in Rome’s Santa Maria degli Angeli Church, on Feb. 25, 2021. (Andrew Medichini/AP Photo)

After the service, the socially distanced crowd applauded as the two hearses pulled out of the piazza carrying the coffins for burial, flanked by a police escort.

Attanasio is survived by his wife and three young daughters, at least one of whom attended the funeral, as well as his parents and siblings. Iacovacci is survived by his fiancee and other family members.

By Nicole Winfield