The head of Catholic church for the lands east of Ankara in Turkey was assassinated on June 3rd, 2010. Msg. Luigi Padovese was a hard-worker in the first place. He lived in Iskenderun, close to holy places like Tarsus or Antakya in southern Turkey. He fought hard to establish an understanding between the Catholic church and Turkish islam. He tried to build bridges between Christians of different faiths in the area.
I’m not a catholic. In many aspects of life I do nor sympathize with Catholic administration of things. That being said I believe in the sacred characteristics of Asia Minor lands. From Antioch (Antakya) to Nicea (Iznik) this land is full of places and history that is dear to all Christians worldwide. It is a human legacy that must be preserved and nourished for the sake of the generations to come. And the job to to provide for this legacy today fells into hands of a few dedicated clergyman who work the area. An area where human rights and freedom of speech rights violations are common on a daily basis. It’s a place where minorities are herded like cattle.
When he was slain, Msg. Padovese was getting ready to go to Cyprus to meet the Pope in his visit to this troubled island. He was at an Assyrian Church mass the day before. His sermon included themes of tolerance and fraternity. His assassin whose family was with the church for more than 25 years should not have listened. Details are not known yet but apparently something happened in Msg. Padovese’s house and his driver started stabbing him with a knife. Padovese was able to get out of the hose but the man followed him to the garden and finished him off by cutting his throat.
Early police reports argue that the assassin, his driver was mentally ill. And they claim that this was a one man job. Of course questions like why Msg. Padovese kept close ties with a deranged person for such a long time and did not take precautions are yet to be answered.
In Turkey, if you are a minority, goodness breeds hatred. Humility causes abomination. In the last 5 years only many Christians including clergy were killed by people or groups whose real motives were never unearthed officially. Long and tiresome court cases go on for several years with minor convictions without deep investigations. The officials see killings of Christians in the country a “further clean-up” of unwanted elements.
Days are ripe with the ideas of martyrdom and humanity because of the Flotilla attack by Israel. The so-called martyrs of the Flotilla, they were at least confronting a defense force of a legitimate country. Msg. Padovese is the genuine martyr. He was a peaceful bishop whose sole goal was to propagate love and love only. And he became the last of long line of martyrs defending love in Asia Minor.
May God bless his soul.
ADDENDUM: On Saturday, June 5th, the author spoke with the family of the assailant. They confirm that they are muslim. Turkish media purported that all the family including the suspect were Christians. Msg. Franceschini of Smyrnian Catholic Church urges the authorities to follow up the case with due diligence and prevent from closing the case without a decent investigation as it happened on the previous acts of violence against Christians in Turkey.