Milan (AsiaNews) – Thanks to the sacrifice of Mgr Luigi Padovese for the Church of Turkey, the Church of Milan wants “to heed the cry, or better, the lament, that rises from you and your land. We, as the Milanese Church, together with all other Christian communities, want to meet the challenge of the growing awareness of our Christian identity and bear witness without fear, always and everywhere, to a truly evangelical life, whereby we love Christ and each man ‘until the end’,” said Card Tettamanzi during the funeral Mass for Mgr Luigi Padovese, Vicar of Anatolia, who was killed on 3 June. Dozens of bishops and priests as well as thousands of faithful took part in the service that began at 10.30 am in the Milan Basilica.
At the beginning of the ceremony, a Vatican representative, the nuncio to Italy Mgr Giuseppe Bertello, read a telegram from the Pope written for the occasion. In it the Holy Father said he was “deeply saddened by the killing” of Mgr Padovese” and that “he joined all those present to recommend the noble soul of our beloved pastor to the infinite mercy of God, giving thanks for his generous witness to the Gospel and his firm commitment to dialogue and reconciliation, which have characterised his priestly life and Episcopal ministry.”
In his homily, Card Tettamanzi said the bishop’s death fulfilled his life, given to Christ and the world. “His body and his blood truly fell on the land of Turkey. In spite of the pain and the tears, the former are what they appear to be, not signs of a life taken away by senseless and tragic violence, but a living offer Father Luigi made every day as part of his mission of bishop, friend of peace, and every man’s brother, for the love of Christ the Lord.”
Initially, Mgr Padovese’s death appeared to be the act of a madman, his driver Murat Altun. In the days that followed, a number of witnesses came forth describing how he was killed, beheaded in a way resembling the Islamic ritual slaughter, the murderer shouting victory and praising Allah.
At the funeral service in Iskenderun, Mgr Ruggero Franceschini, archbishop of Smyrna, described his death as martyrdom. By contrast, the Pope’s telegram and Card Tettamanzi’s homily were more cautious with the notion of martyrdom in relation to the death of the Vicar of Anatolia.
At some point in his homily, the archbishop of Milan spoke about the Turkish Church, saying, “We are grateful to God for the hopes that you, a small flock, communicate to us who too often forget the daily ‘martyrdom’ your faith and life have to face.”
Card Péter Erdõ, president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, sent Card Tettamanzi a message of condolences in which he remembered Mgr Padovese as “a man of dialogue and peace who always showed his openness, friendship and generosity towards others, including those who did not share his faith.”
At the end of the service, Mgr Franceschini spoke. Two days ago, he was appointed as Mgr Padovese’s successor as Vicar of Anatolia.
“They killed a good pastor,” he said, stressing the fact that the assassinated bishop was an expert in the Fathers of the Church and the history of the Turkish Church.
He said that martyrdom was the witness asked from Mgr Padovese and Fr Andrea Santoro. He cited one of his phrases to the faithful in Turkey: “The land on which we tread has been awash with so many martyrs who chose death rather than renege on their faith”.
Mgr Franceschini also appealed to the Church as a whole to provide help for the mission in Turkey. “We ask for vocations, priests, men and women religious who are willing to undertake a very difficult mission, one that brooks no shortcuts or compromises. Come and live the Gospel, help us live in simplicity. Keep a window open on this Church, be the voice of those who are unfree to cry their pain.”
Likewise, the prelate called upon the sick to dedicate their suffering to this mission and urged those whose heart is at peace to make a commitment to it.
“Let this be a flower laid upon Mgr Luigi’s body,” he said.
“It is not for me to talk about his death for his broken body and the blood he shed for us all speak for him. Today, we are the Church of Anatolia”.