By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Four Franciscan monks were brutally attacked and beaten in their monastery on the outskirts of Turin, Italy by masked men who left one friar in a coma and three others seriously injured.
The attack occurred just as the friars were sitting down to dinner. According to Father Emmanuele Battagliotti, 81, they were eating “a dish of spinach” when they heard noises outside.
“I got up to have a look,” Father Battagliotti said from his hospital bed, “but the moment I got to the door I was attacked – suddenly, immediately. I was struck on the head with a blow which made me totter.
“Father Sergio (Baldin) came to my aid. He put himself in front of me to try and defend me, but he too was knocked down without mercy. They hit him until he stopped crying out. Then they beat Father Salvatore and Father Martin as well. It was terrible.”
Friar Sergio Baldin, 49, the most seriously injured of the friars, is in a coma after suffering several skull fractures.
The two other friars are Salvatore Magliano, 86, who suffered a heart attack after the assault but was said to be in a stable condition and Martino Gurini, 76, who managed to free himself first and call for help.
One police officer investigating the assault told the UK Telegraph that “The level of violence used against four defenseless friars was unbelievable. It left one of them on the verge of death.”
Police have no suspects in the case. “At this stage we are looking at all possibilities and keeping an open mind on the motive. There was a small amount of cash taken but that may be a decoy and it could well have been a punishment attack.”
Key to the probe was a phrase said to have been uttered by one of the attackers as he beat Friar Baldin: “I’m going to kill you.”
The police source said: “It was said violently and with real malice, as if he knew Friar Baldin and that’s why we are looking at the attack as some form of punishment.”
Father Gabriele Trivellin, provincial head of the Friars Minor, said the assault amounted to “mindless, savage and gratuitous violence”. He said the hooded men had carried on beating the monks even though they offered no resistance.
Cardinal Severino Poletto, the Archbishop of Turin, who visited the victims in the hospital, said the attack was “beyond comprehension”. The only possible explanation was that the assailants had been “either drugged or possessed, or both”, he said.
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