DAILY CATHOLIC    THURSDAY     May 7, 1998     vol. 9, no. 89

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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          VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- Pope John Paul II today expressed both the "great sorrow" he felt at the death of Alois Estermann and his "personal gratitude" to the Swiss Guard commandant for his service. The Pope also expressed his condolences to the family of Corporal Cedric Tornay, who apparently killed himself after gunning down Colonel Estermann and his wife.

          Funeral services for Colonel Estermann and his wife, Gladys Mesa Romero, will be held at St. Peter's Basilica this afternoon. It has not yet been established where they will be buried. Estermann was a Swiss native, while his wife was from Venezuela.

          Instead of delivering the usual catechetical talk at his weekly Wednesday public audience, Pope John Paul addressed the families of Swiss Guard members, who had gathered in Rome today in anticipation of the annual ceremony at which some members of the Vatican unit are honored, and new recruits are sworn into the service. That ceremony was canceled in the wake of the triple killing.

          The Holy Father lamented that "what should have been a joyful meeting has been transformed into an overwhelming tragedy, which touches every heart and which has been a cause of great sorrow for me." He paid tribute to the slain commandant, who had been installed in that office just hours before the murder, as "a man of great faith and solid devotion to his duty." He offered his "most sincere condolences" to the families of Estermann and his wife, and assured them of his prayers.

          As for Tornay, who evidently killed the Estermann couple before turning his gun on himself, the Pope said that he was keenly aware of the suffering of the young man's parents, and observed that Tornay himself "stands before the judgment of God, and I confide him to God's mercy."

          As the audience closed, the Holy Father said that he was going to pray before the three caskets lying in the small Vatican chapel that is reserved for the Swiss Guard.

          A funeral for Cedric Tornay will be held at St. Anne's church at the Vatican on Thursday, May 7. Under the 1983 Code of Canon Law, suicides are not refused a Catholic funeral, as they were under the earlier Code. Church spokesmen explain that because suicide is often the result of a highly emotional decision, it is open to question in any given case whether the individual rationally understood the gravity of what he was doing.

          The Vatican investigation into the deaths of Colonel Alois Estermann, his wife Meza Romero, and Corporal Cedric Tornay is lending support to the conclusion that Tornay killed the Estermann couple, then himself, at the Vatican on Monday.

          An autopsy conducted by Drs. Piero Fucci and Giovanni Arcudi revealed that Colonel Estermann was killed by two bullets, which lodged in his neck and head. His wife died of a single wound, as a bullet passed through her should and into her spine. Tornay apparently then placed the gun in his mouth and shot himself through the head. All of the bullets were 9 mm. rounds, of the kind fired by Tornay's Sig Sauer service weapon, which was found beneath his body.

          The autopsy reports are consistent with the hypothesis which the Vatican advanced immediately after the slayings were discovered: that Tornay was responsible for all three deaths.

          Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls cautioned that the investigation would not be considered complete until the Vatican judge in charge of the inquiry, Gian Luigi Marrone, issues a final report. He added that blood tests, fingerprints, and ballistic comparisons are still being analyzed. However, it is considered unlikely that any new evidence would substantially change the preliminary conclusions.

          Navarro-Valls told reporters that the Vatican had revealed all of the available evidence regarding the murders, with the single exception of a letter mailed by Cedric Tornay to his family just prior to the shooting. He disclosed that Judge Marrone has a copy of that letter, but insisted that, out of respect for the Tornay family, the contents of the letter would not be disclosed.

May 7, 1998       volume 9, no. 89


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