The fidelity of a bishop

To the truth, to dialogue, and to Turkey where he died

The funerals of Msgr.Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, killed June 3 by his driver Murat Altun, were held on June 7, at the Cathedral of Iskenderun. Presiding over the ceremony was the apostolic nuncio in Turkey, Msgr. Antonio Lucibello, while keeping the homily was Msgr. Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop of Smyrna. The concelebrants were Msgr.Louis Pelâtre, Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul and the Istanbul Armenian coadjutor, Archbishop Msgr. Georges Khazzoum. Present, together with the Italian vice-consul, including representatives of local authorities, the Mayor, the Prefect and the police chief. The ceremony was also attended by Caritas Turkey members and by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, the latter represented by the spokesman, Thierry Bonaventura.He paid with his blood. “Be not afraid,” Archbishop Franceschini told the local Catholics during the funeral Mass. “Don’t be disheartened, but rather joyful, like the apostles, for having successfully lived through suffering and a test of your faith. [Faith] is the reason for our hope, the foundation of our joy. “No one will put out this flame, for it is supported by many martyrs and saints of these lands, by the Holy Virgin, patron of this community, but also, from today, by one more angel in the throne of God: your – our – Bishop Luigi”. The violent death of Msgr. Padovese, he said, “”has left us shaken, unable to understand how something so terrible could have happened, above all to a man of the Church, a bishop who was such a friend to the Turks and to Turkey”, a land “that is thus once again reconfirmed as a place of martyrdom also for those who loved it deeply. To us Christians this death reminds us that the fidelity to the Gospel can be paid with blood”. The Holy See. After the murder expressions of sympathy and solidarity were conveyed to the Catholic Church in Turkey. Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi was the first to comment: “”A horrible fact”. “Let us pray the Lord, that He may reward him for his dedicated service to the Church and that Christians may draw from his strong witness the courage to continue to profess their faith in the region”. Msgr. Padovese was to travel to Cyprus for the apostolic visit of Benedict XVI (June 4-6) and receive the Instrumentum laboris of the next Synod for the Middle East to which he had personally contributed as Benedict XVI recalled in Nicosia on June 6, upon presenting the document to the patriarchs. “”It is only fitting that I recall the late Bishop Luigi Padovese who, as president of the Turkish Catholic Bishops, contributed to the preparation of the Instrumentum Laboris that I am consigning to you today. “His death is a sobering reminder of the vocation that all Christians share, to be courageous witnesses in every circumstance to what is good, noble and just”, His Holiness said. European Bishops’ Conferences. Condolences also from CCEE (Council of European Bishops’ Conferences), which in a statement, expressed “communion of prayer” and “closeness to the bishops, priests, consecrated persons and all Christian people in Turkey”. “Only from the Lord”, the statement continues “can we expect the Justice that a man of peace and goodwill, and one who has always shown true apostolic zeal and a strong dedication to his people deserves. We also pray for those who have committed such a crime, as only the Lord is able to read and change the hearts of men”. Messages were sent from the Bishops’ Conferences in Europe: Msgr. Robert Zollitsch, President of the German Bishops’ Conference (DBK), said he was “shocked by this brutal and cowardly murder. A fact of blood that must be clarified exhaustively and quickly”, he said. A similar message was conveyed by Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco on behalf of the Italian Episcopate CEI. “A brave shepherd” was the memory of Msgr. Padovese conveyed by the Greek bishops, while Albania’s bishops expressed “closeness, solidarity and suffering from our sister Church that experienced the martyrdom under Communism”.Bartolomew I and the European Parliament. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I joined in the expressions of grief of the European bishops. The Archbishop of Constantinople, tied to Msgr. Padovese by deep affection and esteem said: “With great sadness we received the news of the tragic death of late Bishop Luigi Padovese, who made an invaluable service to the Catholic Church and the people of God”. “We must defeat hatred in all places and wherever it is directed, detoxing the exacerbated and intolerant climate it thrives on”, thus the comment of the European Parliament conveyed by Gianni Pittella, vicar vice-president, who conveyed to SIR “the solidarity to the Christian community in Turkey, once again hardly hit” along with the “concerns for the resurgence for acts of violence that are reason for alarm and indignation” in “Europe and in the international community as a whole”.

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