11/08/2004, 00.00
Turkey

Mgr Luigi Padovese, new Vicar Apostolic in Anatolia

The pastoral care of Catholics and keeping alive the memory of early Christians are among the tasks of the new bishop.

Iskenderun (AsiaNews) – Edmond Farhat, Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey, ordained Mgr Luigi Padovese bishop on November 7 in Iskenderun—ancient Alexandretta—in Southern Turkey. The new bishop was also appointed the new Vicar Apostolic in Anatolia replacing Mgr Ruggero Franceschini, Archbishop designate of Izmir (Smyrna).

Mgr Ruggero Franceschini, Mgr Giuseppe Bernardini, the outgoing Archbishop of Izmir, Mgr Luis Pelatre, Bishop of Istanbul, as well as members of the local Christian community and city officials were present at the ceremony.

Milan-born, Mgr Padovese chose to be ordained bishop in Turkey to better express his bond to this land to which he has felt attached for a long time.

"I consider it a great honour," he told attending the ceremony," to be a Christian among you in this land of Turkey that still preserves the memory of early Christianity".

"My love for Anatolia," he said, "led me to organise in Ephesus, Tarsus and Antioch (modern Antakya) seminars and conferences on Sts Peter, Paul and John as well as the Fathers of the Church." Since 1989, the newly-ordained bishop has organised symposia in places dear to Christians, the latest in Antakya in 2003 on faith, history and Antioch archaeology which included Turkish scholars from the Mustafa Kemal University.

As pastor of the Church in Anatolia, Bishop Padovese said his duty was "to preserve this heritage of memories and holiness", but speaking to the faithful, he said "my first duty is to you".

Inspired by John Chrysostom, the Antioch-born Archbishop of Constantinople, Bishop Padovese chose In Caritate Veritas (Truth in Love) as his Episcopal motto.

"These words express my plan to seek truth in mutual respect and love. If it is true that the more one loves, the closer one gets to God, it is also true that by taking this path one comes closest to the true meaning of life which is to exist for others. My wish to engage in dialogue with our Orthodox brothers and members of other religions is based on this conviction".

Edmond Farhat, Apostolic Nuncio in Turkey, urged the new bishop to "steer with courage the ship of Peter" showing to all and in all circumstances that he is a "teacher of hope". The Nuncio reminded Mgr Padovese, that "the great saints who dwelled on this land blessed by God—from Anatolia to Cappadocia— "are with you, are celebrating with you, and are celebrating you".

To express their affection and respect, the Bishop's small flock gave him a warm and festive welcome marked by repeated and prolonged applause.

Turkey has a population of 70 million people, 99 per cent Muslim. Christians represent 0.6 per cent of the total. Catholics are around 30,000. The Vicariate of Anatolia includes 7 parishes, 4,550 parishioners, 3 diocesan priests, 14 religious men and 12 religious women.

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