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May 7, 1998             SECTION TWO              vol 9, no. 89

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      VATICAN ( -- 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.


      HAVANA ( - In one of the most critical statements ever issued by a Cuban Church official against the Communist government, Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino of Havana said this week that the US embargo against Cuba is not the only economic problem of the island, but that there are also other problems that must be addressed by the government.

      In an interview with Palabra Nueva, the official magazine of the Archdiocese, Cardinal Ortega said the economic crisis in Communist Cuba is not the fault of the US embargo alone, but it is caused by "our own faults in the economic field and the mistakes of the Cuban economic system itself." Cardinal Ortega recalled that, during his visit, Pope John Paul II "not only called the world to be open to Cuba but Cuba to be open to the world" and said that it was "a call to overcome our own faults and limitations that, along with other reasons, have brought us the current state of the national economy."

      The cardinal named among the reasons for Cuba's economic problems "the crisis of the socialist countries and especially of Russia, a nation that used to help the Cuban government." He said that if the Holy Father did not speak about these other economic problems during his visit and concentrated on condemning the embargo, "it doesn't mean that the Catholic Church ignores these other problems." Speaking on the dialogue between the Church and the Communist Cuban government, Cardinal Ortega said that the Church "is hardly seeking new spaces to work. We don't want any kind of power, we only want to evangelize, we are trying to increase our capacity for service."

      Cardinal Ortega, the president of the Cuban bishops' conference, said the Catholic Church is currently working on putting into effect the main ideas of the Holy Father's message to the island. As an example, he revealed that his archdiocese is preparing a guide for Cuban priests to be used in the Sunday homilies "with specific ideas from the large themes the Pope spoke about in Cuba." He added, "It is not enough to re-read his words, we need to understand why he said them, what he meant, and how we make them concrete."


      BALTIMORE ( - A New York rabbi on Tuesday became the first to be awarded a papal knighthood during a ceremony presided over by Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore.

      Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, 81, of the Temple Israel Synagogue in Great Neck, New York, was named Knight Commander of St. Gregory the Great, an honor that dates back to 1831. The award was presented by Cardinal Keeler, a longtime friend of the rabbi, made the presentation at St. Mary's Seminary during a meeting between Catholic bishops and Conservative and Reform rabbis.

      "Over the years, Rabbi Waxman has been a consistent peacemaker. He has worked for reconciliation between the Jewish people and the Catholic church," Cardinal Keeler said. "He has been a firm but fair teacher to all of us in the dialogue." The religious leaders are meeting to discuss Catholic-Jewish relations. "The groundwork has been established, (but) it most likely will take three generations for the fruits of our efforts to be fully realized," Waxman said. "There's a great need for education on both sides."

      The rabbi said he "touched and deeply moved" by the award. "This award reflects ... that I have had a brush with history," Waxman said. "There can be no greater privilege than that."


      VATICAN ( -- The special Synod of Bishops for Asia today enters its final deliberative phase, as the participating bishops begin putting together their proposals for a final document.

      On May 1 and 2, the synod heard reports from the small groups of bishops which had been discussing the general themes raised during the first stage of the synod's work. The 11 small groups-- which had been divided according to the language used in discussions-- presented their findings to the full body of bishops, thus paving the way for final deliberations.

      The third and final phase of the synod is the preparation of a list of recommendations, which is relayed to the Pope. The Holy Father uses that document as the basis for his apostolic exhortation, which summarizes the synod's message.

      In the past, Pope John Paul II has traveled to the region covered by the synod for the formal publication of this post-synodal document. Thus, he has traveled to Africa for the African synod, to Lebanon for the synod of bishops from the country, and is planning a trip to Mexico to summarize the results of the synod for the Americas. Although the Holy Father has expressed a desire to visit Jerusalem, there has been no indication to date that such a trip could be arranged in time for this post-synodal document.

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May 7, 1998 volume 9, no. 89   DAILY CATHOLIC