The new vicar succeeds Bishop Rubén Tierrablanca González, who died in December from COVID-19 after three weeks in intensive care. A fidei donum priest from Italy’s Campania region, Bishop Palinuro has lived in Turkey for nine years. This is excellent news, according to Bishop Bizzeti. The new vicar is an expert, ready to contribute to the growth of “a diocesan Church”.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis has appointed Fr Massimiliano Palinuro as the new Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul. The fidei donum priest, currently parish priest in Trabzon (Trebizond), replaces Bishop Rubén Tierrablanca González who died nine months from COVID-19.
Speaking to AsiaNews shortly after his appointment, Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia and president of Caritas Turkey, said it was “an excellent appointment" because the local Catholic community "needs expert and trained people" to contribute to the growth of “a diocesan Church” in Turkey.
The new apostolic vicar was born in Ariano Irpino (Italy) on 10 June 1974 and is incardinated in the Diocese of Ariano Irpino-Lacedonia.
In 1993, he entered the Alessio Ascalesi Archiepiscopal Seminary in Naples and was ordained deacon in 1998. After moving to Rome to study at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, he obtained a licentiate in Sacred Scripture.
He was ordained priest on 24 April 1999 and appointed parish vicar at the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Ariano. In 2000 he was appointed parish priest in the SS. Annunziata parish in San Nicola Baronia.
After earning a doctorate in biblical theology at the Pontificia Facoltà Teologica dell’Italia Meridionale (Pontifical Theological Faculty of Southern Italy), he began teaching New Testament studies in 2004 in charge of New Testament Greek Philology at the same university.
He has been a fidei donum priest in Turkey for nine years, first in the Metropolitan Archdiocese of Izmir and, more recently, in the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia as parish priest in Trabzon, where in 2006 Fr Andrea Santoro was shot dead while praying in St Mary’s church.
With the new appointment, the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul has once again a stable leadership after the death of the previous pastor, Bishop Rubén Tierrablanca González, who died last December. After contracting the coronavirus, the prelate spent three weeks in intensive care, placed on ventilator but never recovered.
Bishop Tierrablanca, who was born on 24 August 1952 in Cortazar, south-central Mexico, was appointed apostolic vicar in April 2016 in Turkey’s economic and commercial capital. He first came to Turkey in 2003, where he also served as Apostolic Administrator of Constantinople for the Greeks. In 2018, he became president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Turkey.
Bishop Bizzeti, who knew him well, remembers him as a pastor “devoted to interfaith dialogue, especially with the Muslim Sufi current. He loved being in this country, even though he knew its limits.”
The prelate was impressed by Tierrablanca’s “openness to dialogue and collaboration, by his incessant quest for exchange with other religions and his desire to build the Church’s diocesan dimension in Turkey, boosting pastoral care and ensuring that it took on more responsibilities.”
In the last census, in 2017, the Apostolic Vicariate of Istanbul had 16,000 baptised members in a metropolis of almost 16 million people, divided in 12 parishes. The seat of the vicariate is the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit.
It extends its jurisdiction over Latin-rite Catholics living in European Turkey and in some provinces of north-western Anatolia: Kocaeli, Düzce, Zonguldak, Bartin, Kastamonu, Çankırı, Kırıkkale, Ankara, Karabük, Bolu, Eskişehir, Sakarya, Bilecik, Yalova, Bursa, Balıkesir and Çanakkale.
Since 1999, the apostolic vicar of Istanbul has also been administrator sede vacante of the Apostolic Exarchate of Constantinople, the only jurisdiction of the Byzantine rite in Turkey.
In the country Catholics number 53,000, less than 0.1 per cent out of a population of 76 million. There are seven ecclesiastical districts (dioceses and vicariates), 54 parishes (13 pastoral centres), and about sixty priests, and as many women religious.
The Church is involved in education with 23 schools, including kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, as well as healthcare with five clinics and hospitals, five centres for seniors and the disabled, and six rehab centres.