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From Muslim to Catholic Priest: He Saved the Eucharist After the Turkey Earthquake & Now He's a Bishop

Born into a family of Muslim migrants, Father Antuan Ilgit converted to Catholicism at age 25. Pope Francis recently appointed him as the first bishop of Turkish origin after Nuncio Julio Murat.

On Feb. 6, Father Ilgit saved the Eucharist from the rubble of the Cathedral of the Annunciation after the devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit Iskenderun, Turkey.

Pope Francis appointed Father Ilgit as the Auxiliary Bishop for the Apostolic Vicariate of Anatolia. He is the first Jesuit of Turkish descent.

“I want to be a sign of hope at the service of everyone in this small Church, but rich in great cultures (…) [and] a sign of trust in our young people,” Father Ilgit told AsiaNews.

This appointment represents the Holy Father’s sign of appreciation and attention towards the community the earthquake affected.

Already at World Youth Day Lisbon 2023, the Pontiff met with young people from the area, accompanied by Father Antuan.

The election is also a historic event for the Church in Turkey: the priest is the first bishop of Turkish origin after Nuncio Julio Murat.

From Muslim to Catholic

Father Antuan was born into a family of Muslim migrants in 1972 Germany.

He returned to Turkey at a very young age, and obtained a degree in public administration from Gazi University in Ankara. In 1997, he converted to Catholicism and received baptism at the Church of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus in Ankara.

Today, Father Ilgit is assigned to the titular see of Tubernuca and will carry out his service alongside the Vicar, Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, in an immense territory that includes the cities of Antakya, Adana, Mersin and Trabzon.

“I hope to render a good service as a Turkish bishop. As auxiliary bishop, I want to serve the vicariate and the whole church of Turkey,” he said.

Father Ilgit also said his goal is to “help Bishop Paolo and together bring hope to earthquake victims, rebuild the cathedral and houses, and assist the refugees. We have a lot of work to do, in harmony; I feel part of a service of charity for all of Turkey.”

Let us pray for Father Antuan Ilgit!

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