VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic vicar in Anatolia, was stabbed to death today in Iskenderun, Turkey, hours before he was to travel to Cyprus to meet with Benedict XVI. He was 63.
Authorities arrested the Capuchin bishop’s driver, who is said to be mentally unstable and reportedly confessed to the crime.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, called the incident “a horrible and incredible fact.”
“We are deeply dismayed,” he said in a statement today. “What happened is terrible, also considering other acts of violence in Turkey a few years ago such as the murder of Father Santoro.”
A 16-year-old Muslim killed Father Santoro, 61, on Feb. 5, 2006, while praying in the church of Trabzon, at the height of the crisis unleashed by the publication in some Western newspapers of caricatures offensive to Islam.
“Let us pray the Lord,” Father Lombardi added, “that he may reward [Bishop Padovese] for his dedicated service to the Church and that Christians may draw from his strong witness the courage to continue to profess their faith in the region.”
Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, the apostolic nuncio to Turkey, said today that “the news of the homicide was a cold shower.”
He reported that he had no details of the incident, except for the gunman, “who was his driver, a person that Bishop Padovese always treated very well in keeping with his style.”
“We are all dismayed,” he added. “We are a small community, the leaders are also few and advanced in years. There is the danger that this community will remain marked.”
Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, and the secretary-general, Bishop Mariano Crociata, expressed “profound sorrow” for the murder of Bishop Padovese, a native of Italy.
“While we deplore the barbarous killing, we are united to the grief of the faithful of that church, which yet again is tried so harshly. We express our most profound closeness and solidarity and that of the whole Italian episcopate,” the bishops said in a note sent to the nuncio to Turkey.
“We assure you of our fervid prayer for the repose of the soul of Bishop Padovese in the certainty that the Lord will grant his good and faithful servant the prize of eternal life,” the note added.
Luigi Padovese was born in Milan in 1947. He was ordained a Capuchin priest in 1973.
In 2004, he was named apostolic vicar to Anatolia, and made a bishop that same year.
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Bishop Padovese: Witness of Dialogue and Peace: www.zenit.org/article-29465?l=english