The funeral of Bishop Luigi Padovese took place in the Cathedral of Milan - the Duomo – on Monday morning. The mass was presided by Cardinal Tettamanzi – Archbishop of Milan – and concelebrated by 27 bishops and 350 priests along with 5.000 faithful. In the first row were the relatives of Bishop Padovese and also representatives from the Church in Anatolia – a minority community facing much suffering.
Cardinal Tettamanzi called Msgr Padovese, a real disciple of Christ who has given his life to announce the gospel and for the life of others. He was a man seeking to open a space for dialogue, for interaction between cultures and religions. He was a meek and wise bishop, a builder of peace and reconciliation.
Four key messages were noted by one of those present at the funeral. The first was a cry to media not to abandon the Church in Turkey. Msgr. Franceschini, the archbishop of Smirne and now nominated apostolic administrator by the pope in place of Msgr. Padovese at Anatolia implored: "We have a plea for the media: Please keep a window open on our land, and on the pain of the Church living in Turkey. You are the voice of those who do not have the freedom to cry out their pain. The truth is justice and is beyond all human considerations."
The second was for Christians to follow the testimony of Msgr Padovese and live their lives authentically. The words of Cardinal Tettamanzi were: "We wish to hear your cry, or rather your lament, coming from your land and your people. It calls each of us Christians to face the challenge of consciously becoming aware of our Christian identity. We need to offer fearlessly, always and everywhere, the witness of a life lived in evangelical authenticity: loving Christ and every human person to the very end."
Then there were the prescient words pronounced by Msgr Padovese on 20 October 2009, who compared the Old Covenant and the New Covenant: "The covenant of the blood of Christ is totally different from the ancient religions. For Christians, life does not come from the sacrifice and death of others but from the sacrifice of one's own life for others. This is the end of violence! It is a voluntary sacrifice! It is a time of solidarity for others".
Finally, there was the appeal for a new missionary style, which could lead to more death but is certain to bear divine fruit. Once again from words pronounced by Msgr Padovese in October 2006: "In an age of pluralism the missionary has to renounce an attitude of domination in order to be successful. He must live the attitude of Christ who came to serve and thus bring salvation to the world."
During the mass, a telegram coming from Cardinal Bertone sent on behalf of the Holy Father was read. It recalled the "generous witness" of Bishop Padovese. Among the many present were also political figures like the mayor of Milan, and the President of the Lombardy region. In their interventions after the mass they made a call for an honest inquiry into the exact motives of the assassin and for those responsible to be brought to justice.
The ex-nuncio to Turkey Msgr. Farhat said at the end of the mass: "This is the way it always happens. They kill the doves, the men and women of peace and dialogue…"
Our wish and prayer continues to be – "May he not have died in vain!"