ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE, JUNE 4, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI expressed grief today over the death of Bishop Luigi Padovese, who was stabbed to death Thursday, and said it was not motivated by politics or religious.
The Pope said this in a press conference with journalists accompanying him on his three-day trip to Cyprus, during which he will deliver the “instrumentum laboris” (working document) for the Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops.
Bishop Padovse, the apostolic vicar for Anatolia, was stabbed to death in Iskenderun, Turkey, hours before he was to travel to Cyprus for the Pontiff’s visit. He was 63.
Authorities charged the Capuchin bishop’s driver with the murder, 26-year-old Murat Altun, who is said to be mentally unstable.
The Pope noted that Bishop Padovese had “contributed greatly” to the preparation of the synod for the Middle East, and also cautioned against confusing the incident with religion or politics.
“This shadow has nothing to do with the topics and the reality of the trip,” he said, “because we must not attribute this event to Turkey or to the Turks. It is something on which we have little information.”
“It is certain, however, that it is not a question of a political or religious murder.”
Responding to a question on the division that still wounds Cyprus, Benedict XVI said that his trip, in continuity with that to the Holy Land last year, intends to be a testimony of peace and dialogue, rooted in faith in the one God: “I do not come with a political message, but with a religious message, which should prepare souls to be more open to peace.”
The apostolic visit, the first ever of a Pope to the island, comes as Cyprus continues to struggle with Turkey over the northern section of the island.
There have long been tensions between the Greek Cypriot majority and Turkish Cypriot minority; since 1974, the latter has controlled a third of the island. In 1983, the Turkish Cypriot-occupied area declared itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” but only Turkey recognizes this.
In recent years, the United Nations has encouraged the island to renew unification efforts. But little progress has been made and the conflict is one of the reasons keeping Turkey out of the European Union.
“These are not things that are done from one day to another,” the Holy Father continued, “and it is very important not only to undertake the necessary political steps, but above all also to prepare souls to take these steps, for that interior openness to peace that comes from faith in God and from the conviction that we are all children of God, brothers and sisters among ourselves.”
When asked about Monday’s deadly clash between Israeli soldiers and pro-Palestinian activists, Benedict XVI encouraged all parties to “not lose patience, courage, the forbearance to begin again.”
“These dispositions of the heart must be created to always begin again,” he said, “in the certainty that we can go forward, that we can attain peace and that violence is not the solution, but the patience of the good.
“To create this disposition seems to me to be the main work that the Vatican, its organs and the Pope can do.”
The Pontiff reflected on the dialogue with the Orthodox Churches, and the common witness of Christian values in the secularized world: “When we are capable of witnessing these values, of being committed to the dialogue … to live these values, we have already given a very fundamental testimony of a very profound unity of the faith.”
Looking forward to the Mideast synod, the Holy Father said the event will foster unity among Christians in the Middle East and dialogue with Muslims, “who are brothers despite the differences.”