Catholic Bishop Murdered in Turkey

Country: Turkey

Date of incident: June 3, 2010

Catholic bishop Luigi Padovese was fatally stabbed in his home in Turkey. Driver confessed to the murder, yet motive remains unclear.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia and President of the Turkish Bishops’ Conference, was fatally stabbed on June 3 by his chauffer, Murat Altun. Altun confessed shortly after the crime and has been charged with murder. Initial reports of the attack by the Turkish media stated that Altun was mentally unstable and had recently been released from a psychiatric facility. These reports have since come into question, as many people familiar with Altun, including Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini, have attested to his sanity.

Although Turkish officials and officials of the Catholic Church have said that the killing was not motivated by religious reasons, reports from neighbors who heard the bishop's cries for help and the killer's shouts of triumph cast some doubt on those reassurances. Witnesses have reported that Altun shouted the takbir, an Islamic declaration of faith, during the attack, and boasted afterwards of having “killed the great Satan.”

Fr. Fillippo di Giacomo, an Italian analyst and reporter, has further suggested that there was awareness of the threat Altun posed. He reported that “hours before Padovese was killed, the Turkish Government called him to say that his driver, who they themselves had put in his service four years before, had gotten out of hand, meaning that he had embraced the fundamentalist cause. Knowing this, Padovese canceled the tickets he had reserved to Cyprus for himself and Altun (his driver). He preferred to stay home rather than to make the trip because he feared that his driver would take advantage of his proximity to the Pope and make an attempt on [the pope's] life.”

The bishop’s autopsy revealed that he received knife wounds all over his body, with at least eight in the heart. His head was almost completely detached from his neck, attached to his body by only the skin of the back of the neck. These wounds, and the aspect of beheading in particular, are in keeping with a ritual sacrifice, and correlate with the murders of ultranationalist groups and Islamic fundamentalists who apparently want to eliminate Christians from Turkey.

The late bishop's funeral took place on June 7 at the Church of the Annunciation, with the participation of the apostolic nuncio, Mgr. Antonio Lucibello.