In Iskenderun, on Sunday, November 29, 2015, the church was filled with joy because Bishop Paul Bizzeti celebrated his first Holy Mass, at the Cathedral Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia.
The appointment of Bishop Bizzeti to the Apostolic Vicariate, Bishop Bizzeti fills a seat that has been vacant since 2010, after the death of the late Bishop Luigi Padovese. The community has suffered a lot. However, the Lord, in his providence, takes care of his people and, in fact, during these days this has come alive. Bishop Paul Bizzeti was born in Florence on September 22, 1947. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1966 and received his priestly ordination on June 21, 1975. He carried out his ministry in Bologna and Florence. It has been a long harbored desire for him to work in Turkey. Since 1978 he has been exploring this country, which has touched his heart with its hospitality and generosity. Over time, he has deepened his knowledge of biblical sites and the early Church. It is this knowledge and love that he has tried to convey through books and many pilgrimages. On August 14, 2015, Pope Francis entrusted him with the service to the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia. The Episcopal consecration took place on November 1, 2015 in Padua, in the Basilica of Santa Giustina.
In Iskenderun, the celebration began with the welcome by Father Massimiliano Veres OFM , Parish Priest of the cathedral. After the initial greeting and reading of the letter of appointment, Msgr. Angelo Accattino, the representative of the Apostolic Nunciature in Turkey, made the announcement of the new Bishop taking his place at the Cathedral Church of the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia After which, the Bishop greeted the assembly. Rab sizinle! the motto that Msgr. Bizzeti has chosen for its new service, declaring that the Lord is always close to us, that He will never abandon us. The Bishop wanted to put emphasis on the unity of the Church which is rich with so many traditions. The presence of the bishop is an expression of ecclesial communion, and on a personal level, proposes obedience to a special vocation: to leave one’s country and to be totally available for the Lord, to live in a concrete way the proximity to the Church which is in Turkey.
Looking at the modest reality of the Church, the Bishop said that the numerical criterion is not a Christian principle. The Lord prefers what is small in the eyes of the world. He then encouraged the people of his diocese, to invite him to love this country and to engage him because Turkey is situated in a region that promotes peace, unity, and respect for the different ethnic groups and religions. To the young people, he addressed the invitation to have the courage to take seriously the idea of consecrating themselves to the service of men, offering them a journey together to discover what is important and beautiful.
During the celebration, there was an air of a new Pentecost, with so many people from different places and Christian denominations, gathered by the Spirit to form one family of God. The songs of the youth of the diocese helped to create a climate of prayer and joy.
The celebration was attended by representatives of the local authorities as well as the Protestant community and the Orthodox Church. Amongst others, were also present, Ürek Gregorios Melki, Syriac Orthodox Bishop and Patriarchal Vicar of Adıyaman, Yusuf Sağ, Patriarchal Vicar Syrian Catholic and Boghos Levon Zekiyan, Armenian Catholic Archbishop and President of the Conference of Bishops of Turkey.
We are very grateful to the Lord for His generosity towards us. Accepting the invitation of Bishop Paul, we entrust him and his mission to the Holy Spirit and the protection of the Virgin Mary, our Mother.