This week at his Wednesday audience, Pope Francis spoke about the 51-year-old priest of the Diocese of Como in Northern Italy, Father Roberto Malgesini, who was murdered Tuesday while distributing food to the needy. Reportedly he was killed by a man with mental illness whom he had assisted before and knew well.

According to Vatican News, Francis affirmed the words of Father Malgesini’s own bishop, saying, “I give praise to God for the witness, that is, for the martyrdom of this witness of charity toward the poorest.”

Vatican News reported

He was truly a father to the poor”, Como’s Bishop Oscar Cantoni said. He likens his own relationship to the murdered priest as that of a son. “We saw each other often,” the Bishop said. “He used to tell me about his activities, recounting the most beautiful things because he carried out his ministry joyfully. He had a vocation within a vocation.”

A diocesan website has already begun to receive testimonials regarding Fr Malgesini.

“He gave everything for the poor, even his own blood. It seems to me he may be called a martyr for charity.”

“He was a happy man and priest because he had discovered that a way to follow Jesus was that of meeting Him in the living flesh of the poor”.

I cannot help but think about Francis’s reaction the martyrdom of the French priest Fr. Jacques Hamal in 2016 by two teenage jihadists, who attacked him while he was saying Mass and slit his throat. Pope Francis praised him at September 14, 2016 the daily Mass in his Santa Marta chapel, “This example of courage, as well as the martyrdom of his own life when he gave himself to help others, to help create brotherhood, helps us to go forward without fear.” Fr. Hamal’s sainthood cause is moving forward, with his cause advancing to Rome last year.

This evening I was going through my mom’s old books as we continue cleaning out my childhood home to prepare it for sale. One of the books I kept was From the Pastor’s Desk: Spiritual Reflections, a compilation of the weekly bulletin letters by of the late Msgr. Thomas M. Wells, a local priest who was murdered in his rectory in the summer of 2000. Msgr. Wells was also a much beloved priest who changed the lives of many people, and who is believed to be a saint by many of those who knew him.

Tonight I am inspired to pray for the safety of our priests, and all of those who give their lives in service of others. Lord, protect them.

Image: Father Roberto Malgesini. (Credit: Diocese of Como.)

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Mike Lewis is the founding managing editor of Where Peter Is. He and Jeannie Gaffigan co-host Field Hospital, a U.S. Catholic podcast.

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