Padre Pietro Turati
Franciscan Martyr in Somalia
(1919 – 1991)
Padre Pietro Turati was born on October 19, 1919 and named Francesco Turati. On January 1, 1935 he entered the “collegio serafico missionario’’. He joined later the ‘Convento di Rezzato’, taking the name Frate Pietro on August 15, 1940 (Assumption of our Lady). The formators, from the Seraphic missionary College of Saiano, to the novitiate and the study of theology in Busto Arsizio… remark: “The young Turati is good, obedient and humble” ... “has strong character, obedient to superiors, charitable towards his companions, diligent at work.” Padre Pietro completed his theological studies in Milan; and was ordained a Priest on June 27, 1948.
Vocation as Missionary:
Vocation as Missionary:
During the final year of theology in 1947, on February 13, Padre Pietro wrote a letter to his Provincial Minister, wherein he admits “being a missionary is my vocation.” And during 1948 May, in a letter to his Provincial he writes – After my ordination, I am willing to go for mission, preferably to Somalia.
“Very Reverend Father Provincial, being next on the day of my priestly ordination, and therefore also to a more decisive orientation for my apostolate tomorrow, I will renew again the question of going to the Mission, preferably in Somalia, demand already submitted in writing in February of last year, 1947”.
In 1948, in the beginning of August, he began his voyage to Somalia and arrived to Mogadishu on August 21. Initially he was appointed as secretary to Bishop Filippini; for 3 years he served as secretary to the Bishop. From the year 1951 he was transferred to many mission stations in the territories of Somalia like – Merka, Brava, Baidoa, Beled Weyn…
Service as Missionary:
In March 1951 Padre Pietro was appointed Head of the Mission of Merka where there was a boarding school for orphans; along this he took care of the spiritual needs of the Italians and helped local people as well.
In 1952 he was made responsible for the mission in Brava where there was a small college which served the children abandoned by their parents. He enlarged the mission and continued caring for the poor.
In the following years, he served in Baidoa, Moofi, Ng’ambo; in 1965 he became responsible for the mission in Beled Weyn. After this, due to political instability in the country, he was appointed the director of the boarding school for boys “Nuova Somalia” during the year 1968. As the political instability continued, from 1969 Padre Pietro encountered difficulties in mission.
From 1973 he took charge for the mission in Gelib, Kisimayo. He could then pay special attention to caring for the orphans, abandoned children, lepers and the poor as well as teaching in schools. He served in this ministry for nearly twenty years. Each week he travelled one hundred and seventeen kilometre to Kisimayo to celebrate Mass.
Padre Pietro was an expert in stonework. He was also an electrician, plumber, mechanic and painter. He was called to restructure the Sacred Heart church and the Cathedral at Mogadishu in 1974.
In the end of the 1980s civil war broke out and in the 1990s the situation in the country was severe. At the Cathedral on the 29th of December, 1990, a meeting was held for the priests of the Diocese by the Apostolic Administrator of Somalia, Padre Giorgio Bertin. Padre Giorgio had been appointed the Apostolic Administrator for the Diocese of Mogadishu after the assassination of Bishop Salvatore Colombo the year before. Padre Pietro just happened to be in Mogadishu that day. He had arrived the day before, the 28th of December, with the body of an Italian who had died a couple of days earlier.
Padre Pietro had to return to Gelib; there was no choice to be made. He could not abandon the three Consolata Sisters, the orphans, and his leper friends.
Padre Pietro was left alone in his mission and was martyred/murdered on 7th February, 1991. The last words of Padre Pietro: “Tell Padre Giorgio Padre Pietro is dead”.
Every week Padre Pietro and the sisters took food and medicines donated by Caritas to the lepers. These people called Padre Pietro the “Santone Bianco”.
Bishop Salvatore Colombo, who was Padre Pietro’s companion for more than 40 years, says that he was a “holy man”.
The superior of the Sisters of the Consolata wrote to the Provincial Minister of the Franciscans in Milan: “... Padre Pietro was a true Franciscan, because he gave all that he received. For him, he did not take anything, his joy was in giving.”
This year being the 25th year a special celebration will be held at Virle, his birth place, near Brescia, in Northern Italy.