Father Andrea Santoro, Requiescat In Pace
Now, a culprit has been caught. And the motive is reportedly–you guessed it–the Muhammad Cartoons:
Turkish security forces arrested a high school student on Tuesday over the killing of an Italian Catholic priest and Turkish television said the teenager had confessed to a crime which has shocked this Muslim nation.
The student told police he was influenced by cartoons lampooning the Prophet Mohammad, NTV commercial television said. The report could not be immediately confirmed.
The state Anatolian news agency said the student, aged 16, had been carrying a 9 mm pistol when he was captured in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, where Andrea Santoro, 61, was gunned down on Sunday while praying.
…Turkey, with a population of 72 million, is overwhelmingly Muslim and its tiny Christian population is barely 60,000. Turkey has seen street protests against the cartoons, but they have been peaceful, in contrast to some Muslim countries…
The Vatican responds:
Pope Benedict XVI said Monday that he hoped the blood shed by a Roman Catholic priest slain in Turkey over the weekend would become the “seeds of hope” to build a lasting fraternity between peoples.
Benedict sent telegrams of condolences to church authorities in Italy and Turkey following the killing Sunday of the Rev. Andrea Santoro, 60, who was shot as he prayed in his church in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon, where he was the parish priest for a small Christian community.
…Benedict said he hoped “that the blood that he shed will become the seeds of hope for building an authentic fraternity among peoples.”
Say a prayer for Father Santoro, a man of God and a man of peace.
Rak/Aki: Bishop fears more violence after priest’s murder
A volunteer in Turkey remembers Father Santoro:
It was Sunday and I had just finished teaching catechism to the 12 children of our parish here in Antakya, the ancient Antioch, in southern Turkey, when Father Domenico stopped me in the garden and told me that the bishop just rang. “Father Andrea has just been shot dead less than an hour ago.” Father Andrea Santoro! I can’t believe it.
He was a man full of determination and earnestness. Although I met him only a few times, for brief moments, when we did meet, our interaction was always intense, straightforward, centred on God, His Word, and Jesus Christ.
I was told that he had been in Turkey in 1993 when he stopped in Antioch for about 20 days (see photo). That was his first pilgrimage to the place he liked to call “the great land where God chose to speak to mankind in a special way.” And it was in the city where the followers of Jesus were first called Christians that he wanted to perform spiritual exercises alone…
…Like a nail embedded in his flesh, his fascination for the land never left him. In the country, he found “riches and means to enlighten our western world thanks to the light that God always cast on it.” But he also found that the Middle East had its own dark corners, its often tragic problems, its emptiness. And for this, it needed that the Gospel that came from there should return there once again, and that the presence of Christ that once was there, be renewed there. Since then, he asked his superiors to let him go back as fidei donum…
…He told me that his presence in “Urfa (and in Abraham’s village of Haran 45 kilometres away) always echoed what God told Abraham: ‘Leave your country, your people, and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you . . . and I will bless you . . . And all peoples on earth”.
Urfa, he said, is every day’s “beginning”. Urfa is God who with an intelligence, power and love greater than our own expressed his plans to us, asking us to be at his service. Urfa is the power of the boundless blessing, joy and fruitfulness that God guarantees. Urfa is the root and compass to know where to go in Turkey and the Middle East.
This city remained in his heart even when he was asked to go to Trabzon on the Black Sea to serve at Saint Mary’s parish church (founded centuries ago by Capuchin Fathers) which had been left vacant for more than three years.
Trabzon is a city of some 200,000 people. It has many mosques, but only one church serving a Catholic congregation of 15 people. It has a larger Orthodox community spread across the city and many women from Eastern Europe working in the sex trade. It also sees many young Muslims drawn to the church.
“Here, there is a world dear to God,” Father Andrea wrote in his newsletter Finestra per il Medio Oriente (Window on the Middle East) right after his arrival in Trabzon. The purpose of the publication, which eventually went online, was to “gather from this land the many riches God gave it and send from there to here the riches God created over time, so that we can interact with each other on human, spiritual, cultural and religious levels, enriching each other’s life, and counter the hatred, threats and war that are too often visible on the horizon.”
This was always his goal. “Open a window that would allow Western and Eastern Churches to exchange gifts, rediscover the sap that flows from the Jewish roots into the Christian tree, encourage a genuine and respectful dialogue between Christianity and Islam, and enable him to bear witness with his life and feelings, above all through prayer, the study of the Holy scriptures, friendships based on listening, talking, simplicity, his sincere believing and the way he lived.”