Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli

Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli OFM (5 February 1942, in El Khadra, Libya – 30 December 2019, in Saccolongo, Italy)[1] was a Libyan-Italian Roman Catholic prelate, who was an Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli and the Titular Bishop of Tabuda.

Bishop Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli in 2009


Martinelli was born in Italian Libya, but moved to Italy with his family when he was a child.[2] He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1967 and returned to Libya in 1971.[2]

In 1985 he was appointed the Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli and the Titular Bishop of Tabuda.

During the civil war in Libya he made an appeal, unheeded by the western states, not to humiliate Gaddafi, but to seek dialogue with him. Martinelli was one of the few who understood that without Gaddafi Libya would be in threat of a civil war.

He then strongly condemned the NATO bombings during the 2011 military intervention in Libya.

In February 2015, during the Libyan crisis for the control of the provinces of Barqa and Tripoli by ISIS, Martinelli refused to leave the country and was the last Italian left in that territory. He received death menaces, but he declared to be ready to martyrdom if necessary and remained next to the last 300 Catholics in Libya.[3]

But because of severe health problems related to cancer, on February 5, 2017 he was forced to retire and Pope Francis accepted his renunciation; He was replaced by coadiutor George Bugeja.[4] So he returned to Italy in late 2018, hospitalized in the elderly care center of the Friars Minor of Saccolongo, where he died in late 2019.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Despite Death Threats, Bishop of Tripoli Refuses to Flee Libya". Zenit. February 19, 2015. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  3. ^ Martinelli ready to die without fear(in Italian)
  4. ^ "Catholic bishop in Tripoli retires". Libya Herald. 8 February 2017.

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Catholic Church titles
Title last held by
James Louis Flaherty
Bishop of Tabuda
3 May 1985 – 31 December 2019
Preceded by
Guido Attilio Previtali
Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli
3 May 1985 – 5 February 2017
Succeeded by
George Bugeja