Driver charged with bishop’s murder in Turkey
The driver of a Roman Catholic bishop stabbed to death in southern Turkey has been charged with murder.
A court in Iskenderun heard that Murat Altun has been detained pending trial on accusations he stabbed Bishop Luigi Padovese, president of the Turkish bishops’ conference.
The nuncio in Turkey, Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, confirmed the death of the 63-year-old bishop, after he was attacked outside his home in the southern Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.
Deniz Kilicer, counsellor at the Turkish embassy to the Holy See, told Catholic News Service that the embassy was told that Bishop Padovese had been killed by his driver and close friend, Murat Altun.
Kilicer, who knew Bishop Padovese, described him as “very charming, very intelligent. He was one of the best experts on St Paul.”
“As an embassy, we are shocked,” she said. “We lost a friend of Turkey.”
Altun “was under psychiatric treatment for the past month and Msgr Padovese was taking him to the hospital for his treatment” when he attacked the bishop, Kilicer said.
The bishop’s long-time assistant, Sr Eleonora de Stefano, said Murat had been showing signs of depression and confusion for several days.
Vatican Radio said the murder did not appear to have a political or religious motive.
Bishop Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia, was scheduled to be in Cyprus from 4-6 June with Pope Benedict and was to receive from the Pope the working document for the special Synod of Bishops on the Middle East.
The bishop had been part of the synod’s planning council.
Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi said, “What has happened is terrible and leaves us deeply upset and naturally in much pain.”
He noted that the murder had occurred on the eve of the Pope visit to Cyprus to offer encouragement to the Christian community in the Middle East.
The bishop’s murder really drives home “how absolutely urgent and necessary the solidarity of the universal Church and support for these Christian communities are,” he said.
Bishop Padovese was a man of the Gospel giving witness to the life of the church in sometimes difficult situations, Fr Lombardi added.
He said the bishop’s courage reminds people of the murder of Fr Andrea Santoro, who was murdered in Turkey in 2006 by a young man suffering from psychological disturbances.
“We pray that the Lord will reward (Bishop Padovese) for his great service to the Church, that Christians would not be discouraged and that, following his strong witness, they will continue to profess their faith in the region,” he said.
Citing local Turkish media, Vatican Radio reported the driver had been in Bishop Padovese’s service the past five years and that the presumed killer’s motives were not political or religious but driven by mental illness.
Archbishop Lucibello told Vatican Radio that the incident “has left us thunderstruck.”
He said the bishop was extremely dedicated to establishing dialogue between West and East with annual symposia and other initiatives.
“He will be a great loss,” he said, adding that he hoped his death would not mark an end to the many interreligious and ecumenical projects he ran for years.
Bishop Padovese was also president of Caritas Turkey.
The president of Caritas Internationalis, Honduran Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa said, Bishop Padovese “was a gentle, dedicated and courageous leader and pastor.”
“The violence of his death is shocking. The whole Caritas family unites in prayer for the family and friends of Msgr Padovese,” said Cardinal Rodriguez.
Born in Milan, the bishop joined the Capuchins and was ordained to the priesthood in 1973. He was named a bishop and apostolic vicar of Anatolia in 2004.