06/06/2012, 00.00
TURKEY
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Catholics enriched by the witness of martyred Mgr Padovese

Hundreds of faithful gather for Mass in memory of the prelate killed in Iskenderun (Anatolia) on 3 June 2010. Fr Domenico Bertogli, parish in Antakya (Antioch) and Mgr Padovese's vicar general, talks about it. Fifth hearing in murderer Murat Altun's trial ends after seven minutes.

Antakya (AsiaNews) - "The sacrifice of Mgr Padovese should encourage all Catholics in Turkey to reflect upon our small Church, which looks forward enriched by the witness of faith of its martyrs," Fr Domenico Bertogli told AsiaNews. A parish priest in Antakya (Antioch), Fr Bertogli is vicar general for Mgr Padovese in Anatolia. On Sunday, he took part in the memorial Mass on the second anniversary of the prelate's death. A member of the Capuchin order, Mgr Padovese was killed at his home in Sultanköy (Iskenderun) by his driver, Murat Altun, who is on trial in the same city. Today, the fifth hearing was held. Local sources told AsiaNews that it lasted seven minutes. The next is scheduled for 4 July.

Mgr Ruggero Franceschini, president of the Bishops' Conference of Turkey and archbishop and metropolitan of Izmir (Smyrna), presided over Sunday's memorial Mass. After the ceremony, a display case was inaugurated inside the cathedral's small chapel in memory of Mgr Padovese, containing his breviary, chalice, crosier and mitre. Also included are some of his writings and the bloodstained pants found in his bedroom the day he was killed.

"Hundreds of faithful came from Antakya, Adana, Tarsus, Mersin and other cities in Anatolia for the cathedral Mass," Fr Domenico said. "Mgr Padovese's witness is still alive among Catholics," he added. "They remember his kindness, openness to dialogue with Muslims and the respect he showed to other faiths during his episcopacy."

After two years since his death, the Diocese of Iskenderun still has no bishop. "The see is still vacant and no decision has yet to be taken," the parish priest said. "It is not normal to wait two years."

This is particularly hard on priests who need guidance in their pastoral work.

Mgr Luigi Padovese, a Capuchin, had his throat cut on 3 June 2010 by his 26-year-old driver, Murat Altun. After his arrest, he claimed a number of reasons for his act, saying the prelate was anti-Muslim, had made homosexual advances or that he himself had acted in a moment of insanity.

As was the case in Fr Andrea Santoro's 2006 murder in Trabzon, Altun was initially declared mentally insane by a panel of doctors and could have avoided trial and walked free.

However, in June 2011, another medical panel in Istanbul reviewed Altun's case file and found the driver of the slain bishop fit for trial. Since then, his defence counsel has done all he can to delay the trial.  

Today was only the fifth hearing in the trial. Only Altun's lawyer was present in the courtroom. During the proceedings, he asked the judge to allow his client's uncle to testify because he had spent ten days prior to the murder at the latter's home, in poor health. The judge gave his assent, and adjourned the trial to 4 July.

Over the past few years, several acts of anti-Christian violence have been perpetrated in Turkey. Fr Andrea Santoro was murdered in 2006 in the city of Trabzon. Three Protestants had their throats cut in Malatya in 2007. And Armenian-Turkish journalist was assassinated in 2007 in Istanbul. (S.C.)

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