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Jun 9 10 12:49 AM
In Cyprus, the pope saw up close the drama of the Christians of the East. Ecumenism is flourishing, but where Islam reigns there is no freedom of conscience or religion. The latest victim is Bishop Luigi Padovese, decapitated like Saint John by Sandro Magister
Jun 11 10 9:24 AM
Bishop Luigi Padovese of Anatoliain in 2008. (CNS/Catholic Press Photo)Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Catholicism in the Middle East probably knew Bishop Luigi Padovese, an Italian Capuchin who served as the Vicar of Anatolia and president of the bishops' conference in Turkey. Gregarious and articulate, Padovese was a passionate advocate of the church's mission in the region. In terms of the Christian/Muslim relationship, Padovese was also one of those rare voices not easily classified as either a hawk or a dove – hardly blind to the threats posed by Islamic radicalism, but still a man of dialogue through and through.
Given that reputation, news last week that Padovese, 63, had been murdered by his longtime driver and aide in his summer residence outside Iskenderun, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast, triggered shock waves across the Catholic world.
Coming on the cusp of Pope Benedict XVI's June 4-6 visit to Cyprus, the killing offered a harrowing reminder of the challenges facing the region's small, and rapidly declining, Christian minority. Padovese's death also inevitably stirred memories of the February 2006 murder of Italian Fr. Andrea Santoro in Trabzon, Turkey – another Catholic missionary slain by a young Turkish man, in that case a 16-year-old who described the killing as revenge for insulting cartoons of Muhammad published by a Danish magazine in 2005.
As of this writing, explanations as to why Padovese was targeted remain conflicting and confused. In the meantime, the murder obviously raises hard questions about the situation facing Christianity in Turkey – a country long held up as perhaps the last, best hope for carving out a genuinely moderate and pluralistic form of Islam, capable of protecting religious minorities and fostering dialogue with the West.
Below, I offer two takes on that subject.
One comes from an interview I conducted this week with American Jesuit Fr. Tom Michel, one of Catholicism's leading experts on Islam who currently lives and works in Ankara, the country's capital. The other comes from Padovese himself, in the form of an interview I had with him in Rome in 2006 shortly after the Santoro murder.
Taken together, the two perspectives illustrate the maddening complexity of life in the Middle East. Michel cautions against reading Padovese's murder as part of an anti-Christian pattern, insisting that there's strong grass-roots sentiment among Turkish Muslims in favor of tolerance. Yet in words that cannot help but seem chilling now, Padovese warned four years ago that even isolated acts of madness in a place such as Turkey can be influenced by what he described as rising anti-Christian prejudice.
Among other things, fallout from the Padovese murder likely will color the conversation at the Oct. 10-24 Synod on the Middle East in Rome. (Benedict XVI presented the Instrumentum Laboris, or working document, for the synod during his trip to Cyprus.) Called to discuss Christianity's future in the region, the synod is an event where Padovese would almost certainly have played an important role.
* * *
Here's what we know at the moment about the details of the June 3 attack on Padovese.
Witnesses reported that the bishop's 26-year-old driver, Murat Altun, shouted "I killed the Great Satan!" afterwards, adding "Allah Akbar!", leading some to suggest that Altun was motivated by radical Islamist ideology. Others say that Altun was struggling with mental and emotional difficulties. After his arrest, Altun reportedly told police that Padovese was a homosexual who had pressured him into a sexual relationship, although several local sources have greeted that claim with skepticism.
Some Turks believe that Altun was manipulated by ultra-nationalist political forces seeking to derail Turkey's candidacy to join the European Union and, more broadly, the country's basic pro-Western orientation.
In a still more bizarre twist, a well-known Italian priest and Vatican writer has claimed that at the last minute, Padovese cancelled plans to travel to Cyprus for the pope's trip because sources in the Turkish government warned him that Altun had embraced Islamic fundamentalism. According to Fr. Fillippo di Giacomo, Padovese was afraid his driver might try to kill the pope.
On Wednesday, Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, another Capuchin missionary in Turkey and the Archbishop of Izmir, told media sources that church leaders have told the country's Ministry of Justice, which is overseeing the investigation into Padovese's death, that the church wants the "full truth," adding that "nothing must be kept hidden."
Jesuit Fr. Tom Michel is a veteran of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, where he served as the resident expert on Islam. He later directed the interreligious dialogue office in Rome for the worldwide Jesuit order. Now based in Ankara, Michel teaches in several universities and also does pastoral work in the two Catholic churches in the city.
I caught up with Michel on Wednesday by phone in his native St. Louis, Missouri, where he was attending the funeral of his 83-year-old brother. Michel knew both Padovese and Murat well; in the very small Catholic community in Turkey, everyone pretty much knows everyone else, which makes the sense of shock and loss all the more acute.
The following are excerpts from our conversation.
How would you describe the situation facing Christians in Turkey?
I don't see what happened to Bishop Padovese as part of some sort of plot. I don't believe it reflects a broad anti-Christian movement or campaign. It seems like it's more explicable as a personal conflict on the part of Murat [the driver].
Christians in Turkey sometimes have differences with the authorities. The Greek Orthodox are still trying to get back their seminaries, which were confiscated years ago by the state. In general, however, Christian life goes on normally. Our two parishes operate without any problems. People aren't afraid to come to Mass. On special occasions such as Palm Sunday, we'll do things outside without thinking twice about it. There's never any worry that something bad will happen. It just doesn't enter your mind.
Remember that there aren't that many Christians in Turkey. After the 1925 population exchange, Turkey ended up about 99 percent Muslim and Greece about 99 percent Christian. It's not like Syria, Lebanon, or Egypt, where there are sizeable local Christian populations. Most Christians in Turkey are localized in the cities – Istanbul, Izmir, and Ankara. In Ankara, we get maybe 300 people on Sunday. There aren't any Orthodox churches, and there are just a handful of Protestant communities, which meet in hotels or other places.
The Catholics in Ankara are a fascinating mix. We get a number of ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel from the embassies, especially from Catholic countries such as Croatia, Chile, Spain, Ireland, and so on. Then we have a large number of Filipina domestics, who are really the backbone of many of our activities. There are a number of Americans, often defense contractors who have relations with the government and the military. We also have a number of African scholarship students. Turkey gives out a lot of scholarships, especially in fields such as engineering and medicine, and many of the Africans who come here to study are Catholics from places such as Angola, Rwanda and Burundi.
We don't face any real pressure or harassment, whether subtle or overt. I should add that since Bishop Padovese's death, I have been flooded with e-mails and phone calls from Muslims in Turkey, extending their condolences and expressing their outrage at his murder. This is as much a part of the reality of Muslim-Christian relations in Turkey as is the occasional violence.
Is the rise of a more openly Islamic government in Turkey a threat?
The present government is more open to religion and to religious views of the world. Turkey's previous governments were often explicitly anti-religious. There's always been a strongly militant secular movement in Turkey allergic to anything religious, and it would certainly be opposed to the present government. My sense is that society is always healthier when people of faith can play a positive role. I have the impression that the present government seems more honest and conscientious than previous ones, and I think that comes from the faith background of the people running it.
You believe the real worry in Turkey isn't militant Islam but militant secularism?
Ataturk was himself a military man, and the military has always played an exaggerated role in national politics. Over the years they've led multiple coups, seeing themselves as the protectors of Turkey's secular state. The present government seems to be trying to break the power of the military and to prevent it from meddling in national politics, so there is a sort of religious/secular struggle going on.
Most people in the present government are Muslims, but they're hardly "Islamists." They're not people who want to apply the sharia through the civil law. They're just not interested in that. Their project is to prepare Turkey to enter the European Union, which obviously takes the country in a very different direction.
You've said and written over the years that there are some promising moderate Muslim movements in Turkey which are more representative of grassroots Islam than the radicals.
One of the advantages we have in Turkey is that there are several strong communities of Muslims already committed to dialogue. We don't have to find people and convince them. The best-known examples would be the Nur Community, followers of Said Nursi, and their cousins in the Gülen movement, followers of Fethullah Gülen. Both are fully committed to dialogue with Christians and a pluralistic society.
Back in the late 1980s, I remember talking to people in the bishops' conference in Turkey about dialogue activities. They encouraged me to get involved with both of these groups, because, as the bishops put it, "They're on our side. They want us to have a good place in Turkish society."
What these movements are picking up is the traditional tolerance of Anatolian Islam. If you look at Nursi and Gülen in terms of who they quote, whose views they're carrying on, it's the great mystics and leaders of Turkish history who articulated a universalist and inclusive vision of Islam. They're strong, growing, vibrant movements, which reflect real grassroots sentiment.
You know Murat Altun?
Yes, I know him fairly well. I've had dinner with him and the bishop several times. I really liked him, and I always thought he did a good job. When I first heard the news that the bishop had been killed and people were saying Murat did it, I actually hoped it would turn out that the police were simply pinning the murder on the easiest suspect in order to solve the case quickly, because that has happened in the past. It doesn't look like that's the case this time, however.
One thing I can say is that Murat was more than just an occasional chauffer. He once drove Padovese to Italy and back to pick up some books. He was more like a member of the family. He and the bishop, along with the bishop's secretary, Sister Leonora, who's an American, spent hours and hours in the car together, talking about all kinds of things.
What was your impression of Bishop Padovese?
He was a breath of fresh air for the Turkish episcopacy. He brought a lot of new ideas, he was dynamic, and he launched a number of important initiatives. The other bishops saw him as a natural leader, which is why they made him president of the episcopal conference. For instance, one of his priorities was the preparation of catechetical materials. Because the Turkish-speaking Christian community is so small, they don't have many resources. He would take good stuff in Italian and other languages and publish it in Turkish, so his people would have a solid formation in the faith.
With regard to Islam, he was a real leader in dialogue. He had good relations with many Muslim leaders. He had a strong personal friendship with the Turkish Ambassador to the Holy See, and good ties with the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Turkey. They issued a glowing tribute to him after the news broke that he had been killed. More than any other, he was the bishop in Turkey who truly believed in the importance of dialogue.
Padovese was also a very good scholar, a Patrologist. He was an expert on the Capadocian Fathers, and for years he led Pauline tours of Turkey, preaching about St. Basil and the two Gregories. He wrote a pilgrimage guide to Turkey which is still a fine resource.
Over the years, I had the chance to meet Padovese and to interview him on several occasions. (The fact that he was a Capuchin, and that I grew up in Capuchin schools and parishes, meant that we actually knew some of the same people.) I always found him to be a perfect expression of the Capuchin ethos: utterly unpretentious, a lively sense of humor, honest and realistic, and primarily concerned with ordinary people.
Back in February 2006, I sat down with Padovese in Rome after the murder of Santoro. As is the case today with Padovese's own death, initial reports as to why 16-year-old Oğuzhan Akdin targeted Santoro were all over the map. Some suggested emotional instability (Akdin had apparently been seeing a psychiatrist), and others pointed to the fact that Akdin received financial hand-outs from Santoro's parish, implying that perhaps the killing was a shake-down gone bad.
Eventually, Akdin explicitly linked his act to the Danish cartoon controversy, and his mother even described her son's slaying of a Catholic priest as "a gift to the state and the nation." Padovese and I didn't know that, however, at the time we spoke – making his insistence that anti-Christian propaganda not be discounted as a motive seem terribly prescient.
Below is what I published at the time based on my conversation with Padovese.
From "The Word From Rome," February 10, 2006
Murder of priest gives insight into Christian-Muslim relations 
I had the chance on Wednesday to speak with Bishop Luigi Padovese, a 58-year-old Capuchin from Milan who serves as the apostolic vicar in Anatolia, and who was Santoro's superior. Padovese was in Rome accompanying Santoro's body, and was set to return to Turkey after the funeral Mass Friday morning.
Listening to Padovese, the most chilling aspect of the story is perhaps how little indication there was that this young man harbored hatred strong enough to kill. The 16-year-old was not, Padovese said, raised in circles linked to any known radical groups or jihadist movement, although his brother has told Turkish media that the young man was influenced by an Islamic militant group he met on-line. His father was not an imam or a fundamentalist politician, but a local dentist. It was his father's pistol the teen used to gun down Santoro, and the father has said that his son was undergoing psychiatric care.
I asked Padovese what he believes the real motive was for Santoro's murder. He said he doesn't know what demons drove this young man, but said dismissing it as an isolated act is a mistake. Rising Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Christian prejudice, Padovese said, shaped the context in which the teen acted.
"It's the anti-Christian climate that has been produced in Turkey," Padovese said. "There's a strong current of religious extremism, and that climate can fuel this sort of hatred. It's passed along in families, in schools, in the newspapers."
Padovese said that every week the Turkish bishops' conference prepares a bulletin citing "denigrating comments" or "banalities" about Christianity that have appeared in the Turkish press.
"There's a false image of our presence that usually goes unchallenged," he said.
As one example of what Padovese has in mind, the Catholic news agency "Asia News" recently carried an essay by a Western academic who had been doing research in a small Black Sea Coast town last summer, near Trabzon. During that time he saw a local newspaper article titled, "A priest sighted." It reported that local children had seen a priest in the vicinity of the town, but chased him off, to the great applause of the locals.
The article quoted a local politician: "The priests who arrive in our area want to re-establish the Christian Greek-Orthodox state that was here before. There are spies among these priests, working for the West. They are trying to destroy our peace."
That's the sort of misrepresentation Padovese said he believes may well have shaped the context in which a young and emotionally pliable Turkish teenager chose to target a Catholic missionary.
Padovese stressed that he "loves the Turkish people," most of whom "are good people who want dialogue." At the same time, he said, "there are zones of Turkey which are completely 'Islamified,' where it is dangerous to be a Christian."
Padovese linked Santoro's death to the broader struggles of the small Christian population in Turkey, a country often lauded as a model of moderate, Western-style Islam, and currently a candidate for membership in the European Union.
"There were several million Christians in Turkey at the fall of the Ottoman Empire," he said. "How is it possible that in the arc of just 70 or 80 years we've become merely 60,000 or 70,000? The truth is that hundreds of thousands of Christians converted to Islam, taking Islamic names and hiding their identity, out of fear of persecution," he said.
"The Christian presence is still there, I know it's there," Padovese said. "Many of these people know that they are Christians, or come from Christian families, but cannot say so."
That fear, Padovese said, is part of the warp and woof of Christian life across the whole Middle East.
[John Allen is NCR senior correspondent. He can be reached at [email protected]
Jun 13 10 3:12 AM
Parma (AsiaNews) - Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, 71, 6 years Latin archbishop of Izmir, is blunt: after the martyrdom of Archbishop. Luigi Padovese. The Church in Turkey is devastated and hurt, but more united than ever. Catholics, Orthodox, Armenians, Chaldeans are more fraternal. The bishop is also outspoken about another aspect: the Church in Turkey wants to know "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" about the motives of the assassin of Mgr. Padovese. The Turkish Church does not believe the motive of murder was sexual in nature, nor the "pious lie" of Murat Altun’s mental illness. He knows that the killing took place following an Islamic ritual but more lies behind this apparent fanaticism. Especially since the murderer was never a devout Muslim. Mgr Franceschini hypothesizes that the assassination was planned with precision, the killer for well trained, and the authors aim to destabilize the country and distance Turkey from Europe.
With the clarity that distinguishes him, he asks the universal Church and Rome to clearly show its support for the Church of Turkey with intelligence and effective solidarity. He appeals for volunteers, teachers, nuns and religious, to go on mission to Turkey, mainly to keep the few Catholic schools open.
After attending the funeral of Mgr. Padovese in Izmir, Mgr. Franceschini came to Italy to attend the solemn funeral of slain bishop to be held in the Cathedral of Milan on 14 June at 10.30. Below the interview that he granted us.
Your Grace, after the martyrdom of bishop. Luigi Padovese how is the Church in Turkey?
It is without doubt, prostrated, pained, but united. Several bishops attended the funeral of Mgr. Padovese, held in the Cathedral of Iskenderun on June 7 last year. Sitting beside me. there was a coadjutor bishop of the Armenians. He could not even utter a single word: he was devastated. It is a reaction due to the shock of the death. The vicar of the Chaldeans did not come, although there were many Chaldean priests. There was also a bishop of the Syrian Orthodox. All were prostrate and destroyed. You could clearly read the thoughts of these Armenian’s, "History repeats itself”, perhaps thinking of what happened to the Armenians in the genocide of the 1900’s.
Neither were we Latins very stoic. Having said all that, it was a beautiful moment of unity. And we will not give up, we will try to keep the Church on course. Regional authorities were also there at the funeral.
What is your view of the murder of the Vicar of Anatolia?
We seek the truth about the murder of Mgr. Padovese first and foremost. The day before the funeral Minister of Justice together with the judge supervising the investigation into the murder arrived in Iskenderun. The judge did not say a word. They asked to see me in a private room and there I told them: "We want the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. We do not want other lies: that there were others involved , there was no one else involved, it was a crime of passion. Nothing must be kept hidden”.
I believe that with this murder, which has an explicitly religious, Islamic element, we are faced with something that goes beyond the government it points towards nostalgic, perhaps anarchist groups who want to destabilize the government.
The very modalities of the murder aim to manipulate public opinion. After having killed the bishop, the young Murat Altun shouted "I killed the great Satan. Allah Akbar. " But this is really strange. Murat had never before said those violent sentences. I knew him for at least 10 years. I was the one who took him on to work for the Church. He had never expressed himself in this way. He was not a practicing Muslim. He was a young man who had a Christian culture, without being Christian. Neither he nor his father were our enemy. In my opinion, were a being used like a tool in the hands of others.
The use of Islamic ritual serves to divert attention: it is like suggesting that the track is religious and not political. Moreover, by pushing the religious track, that of a conflict between Islam and Christianity, public opinion can be inflamed in an area where we are weak and believed we have no strength. What’s more, Prime Minister Erdogan’s strongest supporters are not to be found among radical Islam but in the moderates And I fear that now he no longer has even their support.
Murat Altun also claimed the bishop was homosexual and said he was "depressed and unstable"
The murderer has also "confessed" sexual motives, saying that Mgr. Padovese paid him for "services". But this is a track that only aims to confuse. And I do not believe even the usual hastily and pious lie that Murat was mentally ill and addicted. He was neither the one nor the other. Days before he tried to pass himself off as crazy, but doctors have told him not to show up any more because he is sane.
I suppose he had good lawyers as advisers to prepare and ensure that these alibis, if convicted, means he could get away with just a sentence of a few years.
Some think that given the violence, Turkey should never join Europe ...
Certainly within the motive for this carefully studied murder, is the desire of some sectors of Turkish society not to join Europe, and that do not want any change.
We hope that this killing, instead of distancing us, moves us closer to Europe. Indeed, we hope that our friendship will extended to other European countries to work for our well being and yours, given that Turkey is becoming an increasingly great country.
What is life like for the small Church in Turkey?
The Church in Turkey is not small, but very diverse in different denominations, although in recent times we have learned to love each other. At the funeral of Mgr. Padovese we were all there: Latin, Armenian, Catholic, Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Chaldean. Each confession prayed their own prayer gathered around the coffin.
We need to feel more united with Rome. Even the Orthodox are saying this, who now increasingly look to Rome. We need to feel that the heart of Catholicism beats for us too. We feel a little abandoned. It is true that now there is going to be the Synod Churches for Middle East, which should also help mature solidarity between us and the universal Church. Let us hope so, we hope that the document of the Synod is not only a cultural document, with little real effect. Something has to change.
What would you ask of the Italian and Universal Church?
First of all prayer, but a prayer that is aware of the stakes, that we do not want to give up despite the difficulties: the Christian community was born here and here the first councils took place and we can not abandon these places. We need solidarity, not only proclaimed, but active. Every year we need help to repair one church or another, and we do not know how. Then we need to by a home for the priest, and for the religious sisters to live in and we need lay people and priests to come to live with us.
Unfortunately, especially female institutions, when they see that in coming to Turkey they can not open a home for vocations, they decide not to come. But even if there are difficulties for religious freedom, there is a lot of work to be done. In Turkey there is no freedom to proclaim the gospel in the streets, there is no freedom to establish seminaries or build new churches, but we can work in our parishes that already exist, meet people, transform our sitting rooms into churches…
What are the most urgent needs?
Support for our schools. In Turkey there are still some schools open thanks to old deeds, that even outdate those of Ataturk. Once these schools were the best in Turkey, now they are barely surviving. But we are desperately trying to enhance them to save our youth, who are very badly treated in state schools. Unfortunately, the Christian Brothers have withdrawn. Only the Sisters of Ivrea remain in the field of education, but they are very old. We need teachers, volunteers for two or three years, and women religious to come here and support these schools. They should come even if they can not open a house for vocations. It is important to go to Turkey to give, not to accumulate. We must learn to give something to Jesus, as well as ask for something.
Moreover, it is difficult but not impossible to promote vocations, especially male vocations. So far I managed to ordain two priests. But these vocations come from abroad, so it is important to learn the Turkish language, which is not easy. We need local vocations.
To improve our communication with the Church, we are preparing a site linked to a non-profit organization, which will be ready within a year. It is called the Santa Claus Association, with a site that is being launched online.
Oct 28 10 10:59 PM
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Jan 10 11 11:35 PM
VATICAN CITY, JAN. 10, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A bishop was among the 23 Catholic
missionaries murdered while serving last year, the Vatican's Fides agency is
The list of pastoral workers who died violent deaths while on active duty in
2010 was compiled by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. It
recognizes those who sacrificed their lives due to hatred of the faith or other
reasons, but avoids using the term "martyrs," leaving this judgment of merit to
In 2009, 37 missionary murders were reported; in 2010 there were 23, which
included one bishop, 15 priests, one male religious, one religious sister, two
seminarians and three lay people.
Bishop Luigi Padovese, 63, who served as vicar apostolic of Anatolia, Turkey,
was knifed to death on June 3 by his driver in his home in Iskenderun.
The majority of the deaths took place in North and South America, including
five in Brazil, three in Colombia, two in Mexico, two in Peru, and one each in
Venezuela, Haiti and Ecuador.
Among those killed in Brazil were Father Dejair Gonçalves de Almeida, 32, and
former seminarian Epaminondas Marques da Silva, 26, who were kidnapped March 14
in Volta Redonda and killed by blows to the head by men looking for money.
On May 20, Father Rubens Almeida Gonçalves, 35, was shot in the head in his
Campo Belos parish.
Mario Dayvit Pinheiro Reis, 31, a seminarian, was killed in front of his
family's home in Brasilia by a gunshot fired by a thief on July 4, only a year
before he would have received his ordination to the deaconate.
On Nov. 20, only two months after his priestly ordination, Father Bernardo
Muniz Rabelo Amaral, 28, associate pastor in Humberto de Campos, was shot
several times by a man to whom he was giving a lift in his car.
In Colombia, Brother Luis Enrique Pineda, 57, Salesian coadjutor, was killed
March 20 in Bogota by three robbers who stabbed him and left him to die.
The dead, naked body of Father Román de Jesús Zapata, 51, was found in his
rectory in Turbo on March 24. The authorities state that he was suffocated to
On Aug. 20, Father Herminio Calero Alumia, 36, was killed on the road between
Bogota and Soacha.
In Mexico, Father José Luis Parra Puerto, 50, was killed on Feb. 17, Ash
Wednesday, by men who stole his truck in Vasco de Quiroga.
The lifeless body of Father Carlos Salvador Wotto, 83, was found July 28 in
Oaxaca, gagged and bound, with cigarette burns and cut marks all over, and a
plastic bag over his face.
In Peru's capital, Lima, Franciscan Father Linán Ruiz Morales, 80, a Puerto
Rican who worked with the youth and the poor in Peru since 1978, was found dead
in his convent bedroom from cuts to the neck. A lay colleague, Ananias Aguila,
26, was found stabbed to death in the kitchen next to the church, where there is
a canteen for the poor.
An American priest, Father Esteban Robert Wood, 68, was killed April 28 near
his parish in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela, where he had been serving for the past 23
years. A few weeks earlier he had initiated a "Campaign for the Defense of Life
and of Peace" to combat violence.
In Haiti, a Caritas worker, Julien Kénord, 27, was murdered Oct. 8 in
Port-au-Prince after an attempted robbery.
A 45-year-old Polish priest, Franciscan Father Miroslaw Karczewski, was
killed in his rectory in Domingo de Los Colorados, Ecuador, by thieves who
attacked him with a large crucifix on Dec. 6.
Fides also reported the deaths of six in Asia and two in Africa.
It noted that to this list must be added those "of whom there may never be
news, who in every corner of the world suffer and even pay with their lives for
their faith in Christ," the "cloud of unknown soldiers for the great cause of
--- --- ---
On the Net:
Full report: www.fides.org
Feb 19 11 1:28 AM
MANOUBA, Tunisia, 18 FEB. 2011 (Zenit.org).- Father Marek Rybinski, a young Polish missionary working in Manouba, was found dead early this morning, apparently the victim of a murder.
The Salesian Information Agency is reported today that police found Father Rybinski dead in a store room at the Salesian school with his throat cut. He is the second religious to be found dead in this recent period of social unrest.
The priest was last seen Thursday morning at 10 a.m., and the Salesian community notified the police early today after he had missed morning Mass.
Father Rybinski, 33, was a native of the Warsaw Province in Poland, and was ordained in 2005. He arrived in Manouba in 2007, where he helped, through his contacts in the Polish Missions Office, to "help to finance various projects for the good of the school," the Salesian news agency reported.
The young priest was also the chaplain to the Polish community in Tunisia, and he had spent a lot of time preparing the youngsters for Confirmation.
Archbishop Maroun Elias Nimeh Lahham of Tunisia presided at a Mass for Fr Rybinski in the cathedral of Manouba.
Feb 20 11 2:47 AM
Protesters gather outside the French Embassy in Tunis on Saturday to urge the recall of Ambassador Boris Boillon for his allegedly "insulting behavior" at his introductory press conference, though it is not clear what exactly he said or did. (AP)
By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA | AP
Published: 19Febr. 2011 22:53 Updated: 19 Febr. 2011 23:16
TUNIS, Tunisia: The Tunisian government and a long-banned Islamist party both denounced Saturday the grisly slaying of a Roman Catholic priest, while several hundred people gathered outside the French Embassy in the capital to demand the recall of France’s new ambassador.
The 34-year-old priest Marek Marius Rybinski was found on Friday with his throat slit and stab wounds in the parking lot of the religious school in the Tunis suburb of Manouma.
The slaying of the Polish priest was the first deadly attack on members of religious minorities since last month’s ouster of Tunisia’s longtime autocratic president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The Interior Ministry said the killing appeared to be the work of a “group of extremist terrorist fascists,” judging by the way it was carried out, and vowed that those responsible for the “odious crime” would be severely punished.
The long-outlawed Islamist Ennahdha, or Renaissance, party called on authorities to “cast light on the real circumstances of this incident ... before making accusations.”
The statement, signed by the party’s leader Rached Ghannouchi — who returned to Tunisia last month after decades in exile in London — urged “vigilance in order to ward off anything that could spark anarchy in our country.” In a separate statement, the party also distanced itself from a recent anti-Semitic incident in front of Tunis’ Grand Synagogue, as well as small protests targeting bordellos and stores selling alcohol.
Ennahdha was considered a terrorist group and outlawed under Ben Ali, but is widely considered moderate by scholars.
At least 2,000 people staged a peaceful demonstration in central Tunis on Saturday to denounce extremism and call for tolerance.
Bearing placards with phrases like “I’m Muslim, I’m secular, I am Tunisian” and “no to extremism,” the demonstrators rallied outside the main Tunis theater.
The call to demonstrate was planned before the anti-Semitic incidents and the killing of the priest, and a march on Friday by scores of Islamists demanding the closure of a Tunis brothel, said Soufiane Chourabi, a blogger who helped promote the anti-extremism rally.
In another protest in the capital, several hundred people gathered Saturday outside the French embassy to demand that France recall its new ambassador, Boris Boillon.
The protesters denounced what they called Boillon’s “insulting behavior” at his introductory press conference last week, though it was not clear what exactly he said or did to anger them.
Some of the protesters complained that Boillon had a dismissive and arrogant tone during Thursday’s news conference, while others brandished signs reading “Tunisia: respect it or leave it.” Boillon arrived in Tunis last week to replace the previous French ambassador, Pierre Menat, who was recalled to Paris during the uprising after serving just over a year in the post.
Boillon, a 41-year-old Arabic speaker, is a former adviser to conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy and was previously posted in Iraq.
Tunisia was once a French protectorate, and after the North African nation secured its independence in 1956, its leaders remained close to French authorities.
Some critics have complained that Sarkozy was slow to speak out in favor of the protesters during the uprising that sent Ben Ali into exile in Saudi Arabia on Jan. 14.
Meanwhile, the state news agency TAP reported that Tunisia’s interim president, Fouad Mebazaa, signed an amnesty decree, that could see the release of people imprisoned under Ben Ali’s anti-terrorism laws, laws limiting press freedom and laws that restricted public demonstrations.
Ridha Belhaj, an adviser to the prime minister, didn’t specify how many people could be affected. But lawyer Samir Ben Amor estimated more than 2,500 could be freed under the anti-terrorism law alone that he called anti-constitutional.
Archbishop Maroun Lahham expressed "horror, sadness, anger, revolt, concern, fear, doubt" in response to the 18Febr. murder of the priest who had been working in Manouba, Tunisia since 2007.
The prelate lamented: "Why was Father Marek killed? For 2,000 dinars ($1,300)!"
He noted that the priest had written two weeks earlier that Tunisia "is a nation that is young, intelligent, incapable of violence, profoundly good and not capable of hate."
The missionary had also written: "During my stay in Tunisia, my attitude toward my fellow Muslims has changed dramatically. This fear of terrorism and extremism has completely disappeared.
"Tunisians are so welcoming, friendly and warm. They teach me this attitude."
The archbishop recalled Father Rybinski's offer to come to Tunisia shortly after his 2005 ordination. He praised the missionary's efforts to collect donations "from everywhere to build new premises for the school he loved and he was directing."
Archbishop Lahham stated: "Where do we go from here? There is no question that times of difficulty are not the moments for running away."
"This is no time to panic," he said. "It is time for faith, patience, precaution."
The prelate continued: "I say in my own name first, and I think I can say on behalf of any religious personnel of the Church in Tunisia, and on behalf of Christians in the country, as well as on the behalf of our brother Muslims and Jews: We will stay put in this country that has welcomed us, who loves us and who we love."
Referring to the Gospel passage about the seed that falls to the earth and dies, the archbishop affirmed that Father Rybinski "fell, he died, and in the example of Christ to whom [he] had consecrated himself to, it has borne fruit."
On Monday the Tunisian authorities reported the arrest of 44-year-old Chokri Ben Mustapha Bel-Sadek El-Mestiri for the murder of Father Rybinski.
El-Mestiri was a handyman who handled repairs at the Salesian school where the missionary was stationed.
Father Rybinski reportedly gave him some $1,300 to buy supplies for repairs, but the handyman spent the money elsewhere. The Tunisian authorities suspect that El-Mestiri killed the priest because he was unable to repay or account for the money.
Given the recent unrest in the country, the minister of the interior denounced the murder of the priest while expressing "relief" that it was not politically motivated.
Archbishop Lahham observed the numerous messages of solidarity and sympathy from the Tunisian people after this tragedy. He noted that many demonstrated outside the cathedral with signs that said, "Marek, sorry!"
A group of youth, the prelate noted, came with flowers and tears in their eyes, stating: "We have not killed. It is not Tunisia. Forgive us!"
Feb 26 11 12:43 AM
May 30 11 11:41 PM
TIJUANA, Mexico, 30 MAY 2011 (Zenit.org).- The Archdiocese of Tijuana reported Friday that one of its priests has been killed in an act of violence.
The death of Father Salvador Ruiz Enciso was announced with "great sorrow and consternation" by Archbishop Rafael Romo Muñoz.
The priest had disappeared sometime after celebrating Mass on Sunday, 15 May. The priest's body was found early 23 May, already showing signs of decay, and later confirmed through DNA testing. He was bound and blindfolded and had a wound in the neck.
"We condemn the brutal way in which his life was taken," the statement from Archbishop Romo Muñoz said, "and we trust in authorities so that those responsible for his death will be brought to justice."
In communities where Father Ruiz Enciso exercised his priestly ministry "he is remembered with affection and as a man of God," the archbishop added.
The Fides agency noted that the priest had become popular for promoting a "Mass of the family," during which he used puppets to explain the Gospel to children.
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