Monday, April 17, 2006

Turkey: Fear Prevails after Priest's Murder

A Let-Them-Into-the-EU Alert: "Fear Prevails after Priest's Murder," from Der Spiegel, with thanks to Mathew:
Christians are a vanishing minority in predominately Muslim Turkey. The murder of a priest in February shows that the situation has become precarious -- both for Catholics and for Turkey's EU bid.
Father Pierre Brunissen is deeply immersed in thought as he bumps along in the night bus along the Black Sea coast from Samsun to Trabzon in northern Turkey. There is, on this trip, little for the priest to be happy about. He is hurrying to a Christian congregation in Trabzon -- a city of 250,000 Muslims -- which boasts barely a dozen members. And he is needed because the former priest in Trabzon, Father Andrea Santoro, was murdered in his church.
It's a church which is now casting about for a caretaker. In the vicarage, which gives off a distinct air of neglect, a small plastic tree left over from Christmas gathers dust in the visiting room. Because no one volunteered to replace the murdered priest, the 75-year-old Father Pierre was instructed to travel the 250 kilometers by bus from Samsun to Trabzon once a month to look after things in the city's tiny congregation.
The Catholic Santa Maria Church was founded by Capuchin monks 150 years ago. Santoro had the church restored, and now colorful ornaments and images of the saints once again grace the building's walls and ceilings. But in early February, Santoro was shot dead by two gunshots while he was praying in the last pew of the church. The first shot penetrated his lung and the second went straight to his heart. In the dark wood of the pew, a splintered mark made by one of the bullets can still be seen. On this day, Father Pierre will celebrate the first mass in the church since Santoro's murder, but the church bells remain silent -- there is nobody there to ring them.

Trebizond was once a thriving Christian center. Read it all.


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