Today in prayer I will join in spirit with grieving Catholics in Milan, where the funeral of the Capuchin Archbishop of Anatolia, Turkey, will be celebrated.
Whatever authorities finally may conclude about his murder (allegedly by his driver who had been treated as a family member), Archbishop Luigi Padovese's personal and intellectual qualities made him someone who sought and shared the truth with his tiny Christian community and the many Muslims with whom he entered into dialogue.
Father Thomas Michel, a Jesuit Islamologist who teaches in Ankara and is committed to interreligious dialogue, spoke of Bishop Padovese's qualities in an interview in the All Things Catholic blog of John Allen (www.ncronline.org):
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.
Allen adds his own personal remarks from encounters with this charming archbishop:
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.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
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The Ideal of the Priesthood
This reflection is an excerpt of a longer piece that appeared in our Catholic Register this week [www.catholicregister.org].
It speaks of the pressures on priests because of the widespread knowledge of abuse committed by some priests. It also tells of the idealism and zeal of priests that moves them to make sacrifices in the spirit of a generous follower of Christ:
Say a prayer for us, your priests
The Catholic world is reeling under the huge storm of scandals and it pains me to see such things happening. One person went to the extent of saying that “I don’t feel like going to Church any more to hear the great and lofty ideals that these people preach.”
We have reached a stage where people are thinking of giving up on the Church, and priests in general are being blamed for it. Many of us Catholics are joining this outcry. Priests are being looked at with different eyes now — eyes of suspicion, and understandably so. This hurts and pains me as I am a priest.
Yes I am ashamed, I must admit, about what has happened. A priest is supposed to be one who is trusted, at times trusted even more than one’s own parents. A priest is meant to heal and to care and when a priest fails to do that it is saddening.
At the same time I am sad that many people are suddenly changing their opinions about priests. It is a shame that the acts of a few priests are disturbing our faith in the Church and in the priesthood. But let us not forget the many priests who have made an impact on our lives even without our knowing it.
I am a priest. But I am also a son of loving parents, I am also a brother to wonderful siblings, I am an uncle to beautiful nephews and nieces. There are days when I long so much to see my parents; there are days when I would love to be with my brother and sister and their families; there are days when I want to play with my nephews and nieces. I, a priest, desire these very human things.
My brother and sister are bugged when I go to bed at midnight and get up at 4 a.m. saying that I am not getting enough sleep. How do I make them understand that I am kneeling and crying and praying for someone who has asked for my prayers? When they see me losing weight, how do I tell them that I am fasting and praying for some mother who is crying out for her wayward son, or for a childless couple who are praying desperately for a baby to hold in their arms? When they complain that I do not come home for a family function, how do I tell them that the needs of the faithful outside my door are my first priority?
These are things that every priest struggles with. Maybe some of us don’t know that we owe a lot to these men who sacrifice so much.
As a priest I tell the faithful: You ask us to pray for you in your time of need and for you to overcome your weaknesses in life. Today your priests are in need of your prayers....
(The author Fr. Michael Payyapilly, V.C., is assistant director of the Divine Retreat Centre in Muringoor, Kerala, India)