COMO, Italy (ChurchMilitant.com) - Police have categorically rejected the Italian bishops' claim that the Muslim illegal immigrant who murdered an Italian priest had mental problems.
"The priest died like a dog, that was right," Tunisian citizen Mahmoudi Ridha said Tuesday morning after he repeatedly stabbed 51-year-old Fr. Roberto Malgesini in Piazza San Rocco in the center of Como in northern Italy.
No "certified psychological problems" were detected from the tests carried out Tuesday and the assailant had no history of mental illness, police clarified, after the diocese of Como, the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI), Caritas, and Italy's mainstream media unanimously diagnosed the killer as "mentally ill."
Como's Squadra Volante (Flying Squad) police and defense lawyer, Davide Giudici, also confirmed that the 53-year-old illegal, a recipient of Fr. Malgesini's generosity, had displayed no regret for his action.
Pope Francis paid tribute to the priest in his Wednesday audience, giving "praise to God for the witness, that is, for the martyrdom of this witness of charity toward the poorest."
Italian author Francesco Giubilei told Church Militant that Ridha "is doubly responsible for what he's done: Not only did he kill an innocent human being, but one that was helping him and, what's more, a priest."
"We hope the murderer's 'derangement' will be proven," Giubilei remarked. "And it is too easy to say that the Right instrumentalizes these tragedies."
"But now it isn't the time for polemics: It's time to mourn this man who spent his life helping gli ultimi (the last)," the founder of the Future Nation think tank commented.
Roberto Bernasconi, president of the Como section of pro-migrant Catholic charity Caritas, blamed the "tragedy" on the anti-migrant "climate of hatred and intolerance that is fomented in the city."
Hours after the murder, outspoken pro-life Catholic doctor Silvana De Mari addressed shocked Italians, slamming Pope Francis' "exhortation to build bridges, not walls" as "absolute idiocy" and not endorsed by any sacred text.
"If a European kills a non-European he's a murderous pig, a Nazi and above all, always responsible for his actions. If the opposite happens, he's just a bit touched in the head," Dr. De Mari observed.
"There are many reasons why individual Muslims may attack Christians, but we should be aware that for a variety of reasons the Catholic Church and Catholic priests are a particular target," Dr. Martin Parsons, independent consultant on the global persecution of Christians, told Church Militant.
"At its peak, Islamic State even produced a magazine called Rumiyah (Rome) to talk about how it planned to conquer the West," Parsons noted.
Ridha, who had purchased a large kitchen knife three months ago and carried it with him, attacked the priest of the pastoral community of Beato Scalabrini shortly after 7 a.m. and stabbed him multiple times, killing him with a stab wound to the neck.
Father Malgesini was on his usual rounds distributing breakfast to the homeless and migrant population in the city center when Ridha confronted him angrily, sparking off a loud altercation.
The murderer walked about 400 meters to the local police station — dripping blood all the way — and surrendered.
Police and ambulance services rushed to the crime scene and found Malgesini body's lying lifeless 20 meters from his grey Panda car.
The murder sparked tension between the locals and immigrants, and an Italian woman and a young African engaged in a fistfight until police arrived.
Bishop of Como Oscar Cantoni, who reached the spot around the same time as the emergency services, blessed the body before it was taken away as locals and migrants gathered, crying and expressing disbelief.
The bishop hailed Fr. Malgesini as "a martyr of charity," calling him:
a truly evangelical priest who gave himself to everyone with an enviable simplicity of heart. He leaves behind the teaching of giving oneself to all, starting with the poor whom he recognized as the flesh of Christ and of serving and loving them in any situation, from any origin and from any religion.
"The Italian Church expresses condolences and closeness to the diocesan community of Como over the death of Fr. Roberto Malgesini, murdered this morning at the first light of dawn," a CEI statement announced.
"We pray that the Lord will welcome him into His kingdom, which Fr. Roberto helped build on this earth," the Italian bishops added.
The pro-migrant priest made headlines last year after he was fined by Como municipality for serving breakfast to the homeless who were squatting in the portico of the redundant church of St. Francis.
Malgesini knew his murderer and had helped him out on a number of occasions — giving him advice — but the Muslim still considered the priest his enemy, the Como Chronicle reported, speculating that Ridha may have killed the priest after suspecting him to be part of a plot to deport him.
Ridha came from Tunisia to Italy in 1993 and married an Italian woman whom he later divorced. His residence permit, obtained for family reasons, was canceled as a result of the divorce.
Over the last five years, Ridha had six complaints against him for violating immigration law. He was awarded short prison sentences for resisting a public official and other minor felonies.
In 2017, he managed to evade deportation by claiming he had an eye problem. However, his expulsion order was confirmed after a medical report ruled that he could receive treatment in Tunisia.
The outbreak of the Wuhan virus pandemic resulted in further delay of his deportation. The illegal alien had presented yet another appeal that was to be heard on the day of the murder.
The priest's murder is triggering a renewed debate about migration from Muslim countries into Italy.
Tunisians are now the most common nationality of illegal immigrants arriving in Italy and constitute over one-third of the 5,966 who made it to Italian shores in 2020.
In August, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese asked Tunisia to stop the "uncontrolled flow" of migrants, stressing that it was creating serious issues for Italy's health system.
Violence against the tiny Christian population in Tunisia has risen dramatically, causing the country to rise three places on the Open Doors World Watch List, from number 37 in 2019 to number 34 in 2020.
"Despite Tunisia being a resort visited by many Western tourists, under the surface there is a darker side where Christians are often despised and abused by Muslims. It can take a considerable amount of Christian love and compassion to dislodge such attitudes that have often become deeply ingrained," Dr. Parsons observed.
In 2016, 65-year-old Belgian priest Fr. Jos Vanderlee was stabbed by a Muslim asylum-seeker in his vicarage after he offered a shower and hospitality to the migrant.
The incident took place six days after elderly Fr. Jacques Hamel had his throat cut by Islamic terrorists in the rural French town of St-Étienne-du-Rouvray, near Rouen, in Normandy.
In 1999, a North African Muslim immigrant killed Fr. Renzo Beretta, parish priest of Ponte Chiasso, after turning to him for help.