Luigi Padovese, the Vatican’s apostolic vicar in Anatolia, was stabbed to death on June 3. His driver, Murat Altun, has been charged with murder, and Turkish authorities said the killer did not have political or religious motives. Altun reportedly suffers from serious depression and was found to be mentally unsound by the İskenderun State Hospital department of psychiatry.
The mass, which took place at the Church of the Annunciation in İskenderun, was attended by Alessandro Azzoni, the second in command of Italy’s diplomatic mission to Turkey, Simon Carta, former Italian consul general in İzmir, İskenderun Governor Cemil Aksak and other state and religious officials.
While expressing sorrow for the murder of Padovese, Azzoni told the Anatolia news agency that the deadly incident would not have a negative impact on relations between Turkey and Italy. Noting that Padovese’s efforts have become a model for them, Azzoni continued: “We want Padovese to be a model for all of Turkey, and we want everybody to see his life and the results of all his efforts concerning kinship, love and dialogue. … This symbol of love and kinship with İskenderun will also continue. Such an incident will never stop us. We have hope for the future. We will experience joy more than anxiety. … This love between İskenderun and Italy will continue. The love between Italy and Turkey has always existed.”
While expressing that this was a tragic incident, Carta shared messages of kinship between Turkey and Italy.
Antonio Lucibello, the apostolic nuncio to Turkey, said the funeral mass. Speaking after the service, Metropolitan Archbishop of İzmir Ruggero Franceschini underlined Padovese’s contributions to Turkey. The archbishop also said Padovese loved Turks, shared his food with them during religious festivals and fed needy people.
A message from Pope Benedict XVI sent via Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone was read by Lucibello. “Padovese’s death deeply saddened us. The pope wished for me to offer his condolences politely to you and stressed that with prayers, he is close to all bishops, archbishops, fathers, priests, nuns and all Christian communities in Turkey. … The pope, who is wholeheartedly close to all people who shed tears of pain because of what happened to Luigi Padovese, bestows holy blessings on you via the Messiah Christ, our salvation and source of hope,” Lucibello stated.
Turkish authorities who attended the service, including Hatay Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz, Mayor Yusuf Civelek and Republican People’s Party (CHP) Hatay deputy Abdulaziz Yazar, also expressed sorrow over Padovese’s death and said they hope that such an incident does not happen again.
Padovese’s body was sent to Antalya, where it will be flown to Milan. The slain bishop will be buried in the Italian city.
Meanwhile, the Vatican-based AsiaNews claimed that the murderer of Padovese may have had other motives, alleging that the psychological condition of the 26-year-old killer cannot be used as a defense. Church lawyer Ercan Eriş was quoted in the news as saying that “the murderer can not become depressed in a day and that there is no medical report which declares that.”