DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     May 6, 1998     vol. 9, no. 88

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN CITY (CWNews.com) - Pope John Paul II expressed his sadness on Tuesday over the slaying of the newly-appointed head of the Swiss Guard and his wife Monday night in an apparent murder-suicide by a young Guard member, the first murder at the Vatican in more than 100 years.

          The Holy Father sent a telegram to Alois Estermann's parents, who were in Rome in preparation for their son's swearing-in ceremony set for Wednesday, but now canceled, and he said: "It is with great pain that I learned of the unbearable news of the violent death of your son, the commander of the Swiss Guard, and his dear wife." He added, "In the belief in the resurrection of the dead, I give to you and to all those in grief from my heart my apostolic benediction."

          The 43-year-old Estermann, who had been appointed Captain of the Guard on Monday, and his wife, Gladys Meza Romero, were found dead shortly after 9 pm Monday after a neighbor reported hearing loud noises. The body of 23-year-old Vice Corporal Cedric Tornay was found at the scene, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Vatican officials said they believe Tornay killed his commander because he was upset at a recent reprimand and a perceived lack of recognition.

          Bishop Amedee Grab, president of the Swiss bishops' conference, flew to Rome on Tuesday to console the 100-member Swiss Guard which had been preparing to celebrate the anniversary of the death of 147 guards who fell protecting Pope Clement VII in 1527 on Wednesday, the day they were to swear in 40 new recruits for the elite unit. Bishop Grab said Switzerland's 3.5 million Catholics feel a solidarity with the Guards. "It is a huge sadness for us," Bishop Grab told French-language Swiss Radio on Tuesday morning. "We have lost a very active Christian. He was a man of admirable loyalty, fidelity and honesty," he said of Estermann.

          Estermann was an 18-year veteran in the Guards and has served as its acting commander since last October when his predecessor resigned. He was recognized for throwing his body in front of Pope John Paul II during a 1981 assassination attempt. He had told the Swiss newspaper Le Matin that he was pleased at his appointment on Monday, but was not surprised. "Behind this choice I see the will of God, who will help me accomplish my service well," said Estermann, who held a degree in theology from a pontifical university in Rome.

Articles provided through Catholic World News Service.
CWN is not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provides this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

May 6, 1998       volume 9, no. 88


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