Ankara (AsiaNews) –Mgr Luigi Padovese, bishop of Iskenderun, in Anatolia, was killed today around 1 pm. A priest friend had just met and spoken to him right after 12 o’clock. The prelate’s driver and aide, a Muslim who had worked for the prelate for some time, is thought to have attacked the bishop with a knife. Eyewitnesses said that the driver appeared “depressed, violent and threatening” in recent days.
Mgr Padovese, 63, was appointed Apostolic Vicar to Anatolia in 2004. Currently, he was the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Turkey.
He was closely involved in ecumenical work and in the dialogue with Islam as well working to revive Turkey’s Christian communities.
He had met Turkish authorities yesterday to discuss problems affecting Christian minorities. He was supposed to visit Cyprus tomorrow to meet Benedict XVI who is visiting the island where he will issue the Instrumentum Laboris for the Synod for the Churches of the Middle East.
This is not the first time that the Catholic Church in Turkey is the subject of threats, violence and death. In 2006, a Fidei Donum priest, Fr Andrea Santoro, was assassinated in Trabzon.
In 2006, during the memorial Mass for the murdered priest, Mgr Padovese said, “we forgive whoever carried out this act. It is not by destroying someone who holds opposing views that conflicts can be resolved. The only path that must be taken is that of dialogue, of reciprocal recognition, of closeness and friendliness. But as long as television programs and newspaper articles produce material that shine a bad light on Christians and show them as enemies of Islam (and vice versa), how can we imagine a climate of peace?” Always talking about Fr Santoro, he added, “Whoever wanted to erase his physical presence does not know that his witness is now even stronger.”
Fr Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, said, “What has happened is terrible if we think about other examples of bloodshed in Turkey, like the murder of Fr Santoro a few years ago. [. . .] Let us pray that the Lord may reward him for his great service to the Church and that Christians not be discouraged,” but instead “follow his strong witness and continue to profess their faith in the region.”