Thursday, April 06, 2006

The words of a Turkish Woman about Fr. Santoro

This is a wonderful letter by a Turkish Christian explaining what the death of Fr. Santoro has done to the hearts of his flock. (link)

From the letter:

I was a teenager when this man first came among us 13 years ago.

Already then he was silent and meditative, spending hours in our small church in prayer. We young people – and I was not even a Christian at the time – would ask our parish priest in amazement why he spent those long intervals before the tabernacle. He would reply that the priest was asking the Lord to show him the way. There was the possibility he may come to Turkey. We made a party for him on his feast day and before he left for Rome, he told us, moved: “Insallah (God willing), we will meet again”.

I never saw him again save for now, dead, in many photos printed in the mass media.....

This land is soaked with the blood of St Ignatius of Antioch, of St Chrysostom, St Babila and others. Those were times of persecution and hate, and their icons in church tell us about them.

It is on their blood, and the blood of St Paul, who worked so much for the Gospel, that our Church in Turkey was founded and flourished.

We forget the role of these great Churches. Of the entire Middle East. Christianity has a birthplace. It has a home. And we, in the west, usually ignore that. The churches in the East knew each other, but they are all being persecuted. In the West we have focused on our differences, and not on helping the members of the One Body in Christ.

Then the Christian communities – as though they were no longer members of the same body of Christ – were forgotten by the West, busy on other fronts, and they fell into silence.

In 1846, the Catholic Church of Latin rite, that had never led Antioch out of its sight, returned to our city with the Capuchin Brothers. The first to arrive was the Italian, Fr Basilio Galli. Tireless, active, he won the sympathy of people; he opened a chapel and a small school. The plaque at the entrance of our church reminds us how he paid with his life for his zeal: he was martyred on 12 May 1851, stabbed in the back in church by two murderers, just after he celebrated morning Mass.

Very much like the death of Fr. Santoro. The murderer of Fr. Santoro had to walk past this plaque to kill his victim. The meaning of it, I am sure, never reached his heart.

They tell us that now the Christian community in Antioch is the most alive of all in Turkey, the most dynamic and open to dialogue and ecumenism.

What will become, then, of that of Trabzon, once flourishing and now reduced to the bare minimum?

Our parish priest explained to us that Fr Andrea is remembered as a person who committed himself to serving the poor, prostitutes and dispossessed people. In Italy, he was very involved in social work and had set up various structures to help needy people. We know well enough that one can do very little. You help someone when and how you can, but I don’t think it was this that gave meaning to Fr Andrea’s day.

Looking at our priests, our sisters, who left their entire world to come among us – but why do only so few decide and have the strength to stick it out here? – I ask myself how they manage to remain. Here there is dryness, inefficiency – by western standards – a poor life, without immediate successes: it is only faith that sustains and justifies such a presence.

Faith can bring us to do much beyond what we think we can. It perfects us. It calls us to the service of others.

His death has reawakened us from the torpor of our consciences; it is reminding us what it means to die for love. It has reminded us that a Christian can make himself an uncomfortable presence that must be removed, eliminated. And if this is not the case, then one is not a true disciple of Christ.

But after death, comes Life.

The Church of Turkey perhaps needed more of this.

Perhaps we needed more of this.

His death caused us heartbreak, but it gives a new strength, a new hope. It teaches us love. That Love for which I asked for baptism, going against the advice of my family.

We have a new protector and intercessor up there. He chose to take our side. The side of the innocent and defenceless. Without rebelling. Right until the end. For love of God and brothers. This is a marytr. This is the death that brings Life.

May God bring them hope. From this letter it is sure, that He is in their hearts. And may the Lord bring comfort to all those who suffer in the Middle East. And as we move toward Easter, may we all remember the martayrs of the great Christian churches of the Middle East, and in them may we remember the death that brings life.


Egypeter said...

Wow. Very powerful and beautiful post David.


Bent El Neel said...

Excellent article, and great post by yourself as usual David. I'd like to put in a link to this post in my blog.

DavidNic said...

Of course Bent. Anything I post is there for you to use.