02/13/2006, 00.00
TURKEY
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Time for reflection in the Church of Turkey in the wake of Fr Andrea's murder

by Mavi Zambak

Bishop Padovese: "Whoever wanted to erase his physical presence does not know that now his witness is stronger."

Ankara (AsiaNews) – For the Church in Turkey, in the wake of the shock and grief for the barbarous murder of Fr Andrea Santoro, it is now time for reflection

A solemn Mass in commemoration of Fr Andrea Santoro was celebrated in Istanbul last Thursday by the Vatican's nuncio in Turkey, Archbishop Antonio Lucibello and saw the participation of all the priests and pastors of various nationalities and Christian denominations who were in the city at the time.  Among those present were the Metropolitan of the Armenian Church, Mesrob II, Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Yusuf Cetin and the Vicar of Patriarch Bartholomew I, who was at the time on a pastoral visit to Brazil, as well as Jewish and Muslim religious leaders.  Also present were civil and political authorities who publicly condemned the murder of Fr Andrea and showed their closeness and solidarity to the Christian faithful.

Now the various Catholic communities of the Anatolia Vicariate are gathered around their leader, Bishop Luigi Padovese, to pray with and for Fr Andrea.

Sorrowful were the words of the Pastor of this small flock in Iskenderun and Mersin during the funeral Mass in these two parishes located within the Vicariate, in southern Turkey.  "With the death of Fr Andrea, our Church of Anatolia has become poorer: we have lost a friend, a brother, a minister of God, by we have gained an exemplary witness and now have a protector in heaven who prays for us.  There is much that I could say about these past days: things that I have seen and heard in Trabzon, as well as all the manifestations of mourning in Rome.  Let me just say that Fr Andrea's remains received a triumphant greeting in his native city.  Saint John's in Rome, where the funeral was held, was overflowing with priests and laypeople.  I should like to say that it seemed more a triumphant event than a funeral.  And truly, Fr Andrea, with his death, triumphed over evil and whomever committed it.  Whoever wanted to erase his physical presence does not know that his witness is now even stronger.  A priest may have been killed but a martyr has been created, whose witness is no longer limited to the small church of Santa Mary at Trabzon, but has reached the entire world over these past days.  What have his murderers gained?  The opposite effect to what they hoped.  As Fr Andrea's mother said and as I repeat in Fr Andrea's name, we forgive whoever carried out this act.  It is not by destroying someone who holds opposing views that conflicts can be resolved.  The only path that must be taken is that of dialogue, of reciprocal recognition, of closeness and friendliness.  But as long as television programs and newspaper articles produce material that shine a bad light on Christians and show them as enemies of Islam (and vice versa), how can we imagine a climate of peace?  The media must serve the truth, but also peace.  Those who write and declare things that are false or unfounded are responsible too for the evil that is produced.  Authors must be able to back up their statements and avoid sensational claims that have no foundation in reality and that fuel a climate of hate."

The hope is that Italian and foreign newspapers too, in the search for the sensational, striving to write something original and unexpected, do not go so far as to drag the person of this martyr through the mud.

We know it well: Fr Andrea was not a saint of the kind often found depicted on prayer cards: faint, sentimental, always yielding and cheerful.  He was energetic, resolute and sometimes even abrupt in character, unyielding to compromise in the struggle to love the other and in the honesty of faith.  For this reason, he would continuously ask for prayers, for his humanity, so that he could comply with God's will and that he could be more and more a reflection of that Jesus Christ that wanted to go on living in the land of Turkey.

And God heard his invocation and purified him like gold in the forge.  The blood of the martyr washes away every error, every sin, every human weakness and assimilates to the total gift of the Crucifix.

Together then with Bishop Padovese, we can ask Fr Andrea to intercede now with the Father. "We pray to you to pray for all Christians in Turkey, so that they may not fear witnessing their faith.  May your death become an instrument of unity between Muslims and Christians.  May your death be fruitful and achieve what you sought in life: reciprocal love in the name of the one God."

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