09/14/2006, 00.00
TURKEY – VATICAN

Pope's remarks misused by Islamo-nationalists, vicar apostolic says

Taken out of context, the Pope's remarks have raised a storm against his planned visit to Turkey. For Mgr Padovese security is not a real issue. Since Fr Andrea Santoro's murder every priest has a police escort.

Trabzon (AsiaNews) – Mgr Luigi Padovese, vicar apostolic to Anatolia, expected criticism and loathing to come from Muslim circles in Turkey. "After I heard the Pope's remarks on Italian TV and given the current climate by some Islamo-nationalist papers, I was certain that there would media frenzy. After Ali Bardakoğlu, the current president of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate, said that the Pope's remarks in Regensburg about jihad and Muslim violence were hatemongering, some Turkish TV shows were already slamming the Pope, the Vatican and Christians.

Mgr Padovese spoke to AsiaNews from the Church of St Mary in Trabzon where Fr Andrea Santoro was murdered in February. He said that "the Pope's remarks are being taken out of context for ulterior motives. The fact that the Pope referred to Istanbul as Constantinople was seen by some media as a sign that Christians want to return to the past, to the Byzantine Empire."

Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Turkey in late November, but "even if there are pressures for the Pope to apologise or cancel his trip, I think the Holy Father should go ahead with his plans," Mgr Padovese said.

Turkey's "Islamo-nationalist media were looking for an excuse to make a lot of fuss and attack the trip," he added. Currently, "the climate in the country is already heated and hostile. Taken out of context, the Pope's remarks are just more fuel poured onto an already raging fire. His words were just another excuse to be against his trip to Turkey. It's too bad that, although there are a lot of fair-minded people here, they have no voice in chapter and have to keep silent out of fear or as a result of intimidation".

For the Vicar to Anatolia it is likely "that this media circus will blow over in just a few days". And as for possible retaliations against Christians, he said that "since Fr Santoro's murder, clergymen like me move around with a police escort. That's why I don't think there should be any problem. But, of course, we must be prudent".

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See also
In Trabzon Cardinal Ruini calls for religious freedom in memory of Father Santoro
05/02/2007
Mgr Luigi Padovese assassinated in southern Turkey
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