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Can the New Pope Restore the Church?

14.03.2013, Erdal Doğan – unofficial translation of the article “Yeni Papa Kiliseyi Onarabilecek mi?” published in Demokrat News website

Erdal Doğan / Demokrat News

I know the first thought that some of you are thinking as soon as you see the title of this article:  where did this Pope article come from?   Have you sat down and caught the heated agenda of the central media and now are writing tabloid news?   We know, the old one resigned, the new one chosen is from Argentina, its all said and done, great.  So why the article?   What do we have to do with the Pope?

Especially where it is constantly shouted at us “We are a 99% Muslim country,” seriously, what do we have to do with the Pope?  You sat down and composed this writing.

Is this your job, or your concern?   Or is it both?

No, it is not that way at all.   The Pope, being not only the spiritual leader of the Vatican, but also having a position as a political leader concerns not only 1.2 billion Catholics of the world.   Even if it only affects them directly, it clearly affects us.   But our connection is not that indirect; because the Pope absolutely and directly involves us, there is a lot of news and commentary on the Pope in Turkey.     Especially after his selection, the content of his politics overwhelmingly concerns our country.

Before everything else our country Anatolia, rightfully so, is very important to every spiritual Christian as the place where Christianity first spread and developed.

If there had not been an ethnic cleansing of the İttihatçı (Committee for Union and Progress)  in the last century, an important majority of our country would have remained Christian.

It is unclear whether it is for those reasons or other reasons,  but the political and religious leader of Catholics who make up a very small percentage of the very few Christians in the country, the Pope, in the past has, now does and in the future will continue to affect the agenda in Turkey heavily.  For example his attitude with regard to the political and spiritual undulations, as well as other social incidents, even if only known through the media, continues to be a deep concern in Turkey’s agenda just as much as other countries .

The incidents I will give below, along with the Catholic Church’s attitude or silence about them, along with the changes at the Vatican, are more than foreign news.   They are a direct concern for our country.

As is known, the ones who choose the Pope serve in their positions throughout their entire life.

Throughout my lifetime this is the third Pope I have known to sit in the Papal throne.

I know him, of course, not personally, just from the press.

The first pope I saw on the media, as those my age will remember, was Pope John Paul II.  On May 13, 1981, he was saved from an assassination attempt and as a result was permanently etched in my mind through the black and white images on TRT.  He will always be remembered.

Maybe some of us are different for we remember these scenes with shame.

Our shame had one basic reason.

Part of that shame were the claims that the person who tried to commit the murder was a Turk, one trained as a counter guerilla by the Special Military Division.

The individual who tried to kill the Pope was involved in the killing of Abdi Ipekci in Istanbul on Feb 1, 1979.  He was captured and spent some time in the Malatya Military Prison.  He was taken from the prison by the military and several years later tried to kill the Pope.

It’s as if having murderers in our country is not enough, we export murderers to Europe.

Those were the cold war years with all its destruction.

When the thought of the Pope being a victim is looked at now, it brings that polarized world into sharper focus.  Yet for that world it was just a basic detail.

Those were years that, whoever you were, you were not exempt from the war.

In fact this “detail issue” was something our country does not find foreign, when one thinks of internal political style.

The assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was an action that like other actions produced far more than it aimed for.

In the end the goal of manipulating the sense of the public opinion was successfully completed.

The triggerman that the true instigators chose and his identity were all successfully covered over for years by the network of relationships they had placed him in before the assassination, along with the plan for the assassination attempt and the planners.

Pope John Paul II, who was saved from this dirty and bloody game and this layered curtain, I suppose, ought to have understood how he can sacrifice himself  and the political focal points that he considered friends; in later years it can be said that the religious and political approach to the world became different.

The Pope after him, German Pope Benedict XVI did not have a long papal adventure.

Because, despite not having poor health, he became the second Pope in history to submit his resignation and step down from his post.

Besides Pope Benedict XVI’s attitude toward a couple incidents, the thing that caught my attention was the action he could be most criticized for:  his lack of response and silence while the religious men who work for the Vatican in Turkey were being targeted by Ergenekon in the years 2004-2011.

Of course the systematically carried out incidents were not only targeting Catholic religious men.

At the same time even more, hundreds, of terrorist actions were carried out against Orthodox Armenian and Greeks as well as Protestant Christians.

In the face of all of this the silence of Pope Benedict was something I could not understand.

Even if I had some things to gain, because there was a need for concrete support for accusations that could be proven, I stayed away from saying anything.   I still want to stay away.

If it is necessary to write about the attacks against Catholic congregations in Turkey during this time:

For example; If we only give examples of Catholic religious men, in 2004 the Santa Maria Church priest was beaten into a coma and after he recovered resigned from his post and returned to Italy.  The investigation still stands as an ‘unresolved case.”  Italian Father Santoro, who took the place of the beaten priest who returned to his home country, while praying in the rear of the church,  was shot to death with one bullet from a very hard to find gun, a glock.   After this professional murder, despite the eyewitnesses who said they saw more than one person, that the murderers arm and voice did not resemble a child’s, the case was closed and the guilt placed upon a myopic 15 year old boy who had never picked up a gun.

Right after this, at the same time, February 2006, a group of young men armed with knives beat up and threated to kill an Italian Catholic priest

In the years that followed other things came out that should be judged.  On March 3,4, 2003 at the 1st Army Headquarters in a Balyoz (Sledgehammer) action plan seminar document just like the Santa Maria Church in Trabzon incident there was a list of other Catholic religious men targeted for assassination.  One was the Vatican Embassy Istanbul Representative and Spiritual Spokesman for the Catholic Fellowships Georges Marovitch, who on July 24, 2007 was pushed in front of a moving train.  Because of this incident Catholic priest Marovitch had broken ribs and internal injuries;  he was bound to a bed and wheelchair for the next 5 years of his life.  Unfortunately he lost his battle and died in his beloved Istanbul on March 22, 2012.  .

On December 18, 2007 the Izmir Saint Antoine Priest Father Adriano Francini, was stabbed and wounded.   The perpetrator who wounded the priest was later captured with the crime instrument but was released after investigation.   The most important discussion about this in the Turkish public was whether this was done because of hate.   Later this incident fell off the radar and was forgotten.

The last attack was more tragic.  In the Iskendurun province, in the city of Hatay, bishop Luigi Padovese was the Anatolian Papal Repesentative.   A few days before Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cyprus, Luigi got into an argument with his personal chauffeur, Murat Altun, about his role in a possible assassination attempt on the Pope.  As a result he was repeatedly stabbed and killed by Murat.  Again, unfortunately, this case, just like the other ones, was not taken into consideration by the Vatican.

Father Adriano Francini, who had also been stabbed and now took over Padovese’s position, went to the Vatican shortly after this incident and requested them to take more responsibility for him in Turkey.  Unfortunately this request, which contained some criticism, did not receive a concrete response.  Padovese’s murder case was not alone; the general Turkish justice practice was followed, unless a murder requires serious legal investigation, the defendant’s unjust incitement defense was found to be correct and the case quickly ended.

If you think the previous Pope’s and the Vatican’s disinterest is simply with regard to these kind of life threatening incidents, you are wrong.  The Latin Catholic population in Turkey for hundreds of years has lived with a painful truth; forget about Turkish Republic status,  they have not had any legal citizenship status of any kind.  This situation is not bound simply to citizenship either.  When it comes to this group’s churches as well as other institutions connected with the group’s property and the foreigner’s lack of legal status, just like the condition of other minorities, they have continued this existence the length of the Turkish republic’s history.   Just like the other minorities, in fact even worse, this group for over 1500 years has given the best service to Turkish citizens through their schools and hospitals – all while continuing in this condition.

To remain a spectator of all of these things cannot be explained by spiritual reasons; these incidents can be understood with just some standard logic.  What needs to be explained is certainly those balances that are trying to be established whether they be political or whatever.  The Vatican’s silence and unwillingness to care for their own concerns does not only affect the Catholic world in Turkey;  it affects the other minorities and even those Turkish citizens who are not minorities in a deep way.

Because crimes committed against humanity do not just affect the victim and their nearest relatives.   Bit by bit, from near to far, it affects all of the human family.

Since Pope Benedict  XVI’s apparent resignation reasons are not satisfactory to most, whether the true reasons will become clear in future years and will be investigated or not is impossible to say now.

A LITTLE MERCY WILL MAKE THE WORLD WARMER, MORE JUST”

As is known after the resignation the Catholic world’s new spiritual leader was selected.   He is the 266th Pope chosen, the Buenos Aires Bishop Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  With this choice, even if he is ethnically Italian, this is the first time a non-European Pope, on top of that a South American Pope, was chosen.  When Cardinal Bergoglio was chosen as Pope, he chose Francis I as his name.  He then as is tradition went out on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica and made a plain, humble speech to the ten thousands gathered there.

But the world news agencies did not delay in getting the claims about him out into the flow of information.

Among these and the one that will most likely cause him the most problem are the claims that he adopted a supportive attitude of those who support a military coup in Argentina, his home country.

Human rights organizations and especially Plaza de Mayo Mothers and Grandmothers, the group our Turkish Republic’s Saturday Mothers learned from, have specifically blamed the newly chosen Pope of being in cooperation with the dictators during the coup time period.

The incident that those who blame the Pope claims support their accusations, although the Pope vigorously denies, is the following:  New Pope Francis I, two years ago during the dictator time period, at the court case for the ESMA (Equipment Technical School), which had been turned into a torture chamber, came and gave witness.  Several coup victims accused him of being the reason that they were arrested and tortured for months because of the first Jesuit Pope’s refusal of protection.
But this incident which they accused the Pope over actually occurred this way:  During the coup period, Pope Francis sat on the Jesuit’s highest position.  Churches in the slum areas under his control had an arm of service to the poor and Francisco Jales and Orlandio Yorio worked for this ministry arm.  Their request for asylum was denied by the Pope who knowingly placed them in the arms of those running the coup.   While Pope Francis was a Cardinal, he rejected these claims vigorously.  The Vatican’s explanations after he was chosen as Pope are along the same line.

So while the world’s news agencies are making this known, from Argentina’s continent and political solidarity partner Venezuela, comes a different statement.  It comes from Nicolas Maduro, the state minister representative who stepped into Chavez’s position as minister temporarily but at the first election who looks like he will easily take the position permanently.

Marduro, after the white smoke appears out of the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, in a speech, tells how Hugo Chavez, from heaven, supported the new pope.   This is what he said:   “There, a new hand that arrived in heaven was instrumental in the selection of a new South American Pope.  Jesus said “it is the South American’s time.” 

The new Pope’s name comes from Saint Francis of Assisi.  He was a saint who believed that Jesus gave him the mission of repairing the church.  Saint Francis at the same time was known for his humility, poverty and spirituality and as the protector saint of Italy.  Saint Francis’s name being chosen by the Italian national, but Argentine Pope is seen as very meaningful.   The new Pope, I believe, has already given several messages.  Another important aspect of the new Pope is what he did in Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, on April 24, 2006.  He made a personal call to Turkey at a ceremony to honor the victims, he made a call for Turkey to recognize the Armenian ethnic cleansing.

With this call, the new Pope raises a new concern about whether he will not only be the1.2 billion Catholic world’s spiritual leader but whether he will continue as the head of the Vatican State, which has State Observer status at the United Nations.

This is now pretty long for a column but with regard to the Pope and his effects, this article, which could still be called short, really wonders whether the Pope will repair the church or not, and whether he will adopt an attitude of support for human rights law or not.  Because rightfully all the oppressed peoples who have suffered destruction or are still facing it would love to see the Pope standing with them.

“I WANT A CHURCH THAT WORKS FOR THE POOR”

While wondering whether the Pope really can carry out his mission and while ready to end this article, I came across this statement by the Pope made on March 17, 2013:  “Many suggested I take the name “Adriano” in order for me to be a true reformer Some wanted me to take the name Clement XV.  When it was clear that I was chosen my friend Claudio Hummes hugged me and said “Don’t you dare forget the poor.”  At that moment Saint Francis, who dedicated himself to the poor and to peace came to my mind.  I want a church for the poor, that works for the poor.  A little mercy will change the world.  It will make the world warmer and more just.”

This statement is enough to explain why above we were talking about the Pope’s name being significant.  We will see later in his actions whether his true motive will be carried out or not.

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