Ankara (AsiaNews) – The Turkish Catholic Church will remember Mgr Luigi Padovese on Sunday, a year after his murder. A mass will be celebrated in Iskenderun cathedral, where Padovese was bishop, in the presence of representatives of various Christians denominations and local authorities. Mgr Ruggero Franceschini, archbishop of Izmir and apostolic vicar to Iskenderun (Anatolia), will preside over the ceremony. Apostolic Nuncio Mgr Antonio Lucibello and a number of Vatican officials who flew in from Rome for that purpose will be present at the service, sources told AsiaNews.
Catholics are keeping a very low profile in relation to the anniversary, fearing that the memory of the murder might stir controversy again just a few days before the 12 June parliamentary elections. Members of the local Catholic community report in fact a rise in nationalist and fundamentalist feelings that often turn violent against Christians.
Mgr Luigi Padovese, a member of the Capuchin order, had his throat cut. His assassin, then 26-year-old assassin, Murat Altun, after his arrest, said he attacked the prelate because he was unfriendly towards Islam, was morbidly homosexual, crazy . . . (see Geries Othman, “Mgr Luigi Padovese assassinated in southern Turkey, in AsiaNews, 3 June 2010, and ibid., “Mgr. Padovese's driver charged with murder. Doubts about his ‘insanity’,” in AsiaNews, 4 June 2010).
After the murder, Mgr Franceschini has repeatedly called for truth to be told and an end to the lies (see Bernardo Cervellera, “Archbishop of Smyrna: The martyrdom of bishop Padovese we want the truth and not "pious lies,” in AsiaNews, 10 June 2010, “Mgr Franceschini: ultranationalist and religious fanatics behind Bishop Padovese's murder,” in AsiaNews, 16 October 2010, and “Mgr Franceschini: The Turkish Church "can not intervene" against falsehoods on Mgr. Padovese,” in AsiaNews, 2 December 2010).
Until recently, these requests have fallen on deaf years. Sources told AsiaNews that the assassin, who was the bishop’s driver, could have avoided trial on mental health grounds. Yesterday, an Istanbul medical commission ruled instead that he was fit to stand trial. A date for his day in court has not yet been decided.
Padovese’s death is not an isolated incident. Other Christians have been attacked. Fr Andrea Santoro, a Catholic priest, was killed in 2006 in Trabzon; three Protestants had their throats cut in Malatya in 2007; Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul in 2007.
In addition, other Christians have been wounded in murder attempts. The latest occurred in Adana (Anatolia), last Good Thursday, when a group of young people went inside a church to kill its priest, Father Francis, a capuchin from India.
They were stopped by a group of young Catholics who locked the would-be murderers inside a room, and called police.
Father Francis is currently in India waiting for tensions to lessen.