.- A friend of 30 years described Bishop Luigi Padovese, who was recently murdered in Turkey, as a scholarly man with “big heart” and a “passion” for his ministry within the country.
In an exclusive interview with CNA, Bishop John Corriveau of British Columbia recalled the life and work of the late Italian prelate and also warned against overgeneralizing the tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East, saying that the situation varies in each country.
Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, was reportedly stabbed to death in Iskendurun, Turkey on Thursday by his driver, who also served as his aide. According to Italy's ANSA news agency, Turkish police have detained the alleged killer and have not yet established a motive. The accused is said to be Muslim.
Bishop John Corriveau of Nelson, British Columbia, remembered his brother bishop as “a scholarly man” with a “particular passion” and devotion to Turkey, “the land of St. Paul.”
Speaking to CNA on Friday, he recalled meeting Bishop Padovese some 30 years ago in Rome, when the Italian prelate was named president of the Franciscan Institute.
“I knew him in that capacity as president of the Franciscan Institute in Rome,” Bishop Corriveau explained. The Italian bishop was “a very broadminded person, a very loving and trusting person – his faith opened him wide to the world,” he added.
When the Holy Father was seeking to appoint a shepherd within Turkey several years ago, Bishop Padovese “was a natural candidate when the Holy Father was looking for a vicar apostolic,” Bishop Corriveau noted.
“He knew the area well and certainly had a passion for it.”
Involved in a number of Vatican congregations, Bishop Padovese “was always a very active and inquiring man” with a “big heart” and a love for his ministry within Turkey.
In light of the Holy Father's current apostolic visit to Cyprus in the Middle East, some have speculated that the bishop's death might influence the papal trip. Pope Benedict clarified on the papal plane this morning that the recent event would not affect the theme of his visit nor change dialogue with Islam.
When asked to comment on the bishop's death in relation to the apostolic visit, Bishop Corriveau warned against overgeneralizing the tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.
“Each country is different,” he emphasized, adding that “Turkey has been one of the easier places to work – there's relative freedom of movement and action” for Christians.
“Of course,” as Catholic leaders, “you have to work with great respect for Islam,” he added, but “the difficulty there I don't think is so much on an official level – the government is very tolerant.”
The difficulties that cause religious tensions, he explained, lie with “fanatical groups that are operative in the world.” These groups “can ignite passion in people that becomes very difficult to deal with” as well as “create a situation of some danger for Christians and in particular for high profile Christians,” he observed.
However, “I think particularly Bishop Luigi had reasonably good rapport” with those he worked with in Turkey. “He was also in dialogue groups and the like.”
In his concluding remarks describing Bishop Padovese, the Canadian prelate remembered the well-loved bishop as “open to every manifestation of goodness in the world.”
“He didn't live his faith in a partisan way – he lived his faith as the openness of the Gospel to the world. It was a beautiful quality in him.”