Pope Preparing For Turkey Visit, Praises Murdered Priest
ISTANBUL, TURKEY (BosNewsLife)– Just days before he was shot and killed in his church in Turkey’s black sea port of Trabzon, Priest Andrea Santoro urged Pope Benedict XVI to visit him and the impoverished people of his region, BosNewsLife monitored.
Letters distributed by the Vatican reveal that Santoro, who died Sunday, February 5, was concerned over the plight of Georgian ladies in his parish. He attached their writings in a letter to the pontiff on January 31.
“Pray for us, for the poor, for the miserable all over the world, for children…Georgians are very poor, they have debts, they have no homes or work. We are without strength,” the women, identified as Maria, Marina and Maria wrote.
“At present we live in Trabzon and work…We do not forget the Christian life and we try to be a good example for Turks in the name of God so that through us they will see and glorify God…If you come to Trabzon , we will be able to speak face to face. Your coming will be a joyful celebration,” they added.
Santoro, who worked with the impoverished community and helped prostitutes to escape and seek a different life, also urged Pope Benedict XVI to visit Turkey .
“Holiness, I join these three women to truly invite you to visit us. It is a small flock, as Jesus said, which tries to be salt, leaven and light on this earth. A visit of yours, even if brief, would be a consolation and encouragement. If [it’s] God’s will, nothing is impossible for God,” he wrote.
Santoro, 60, was never able to receive a reply from the pope: The priest died after a 16-year-old student reportedly shot him in the back twice as he knelt in his church for prayer.
Witnesses said his killer yelled Allahu Akbar, or “Allah is Great” before firing. The student, identified only as O.A. told police he was influenced by anger over published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in European media, Turkey ‘s NTV commercial television reported.
In comments, the pontiff said he had read Santoro’s letter “with deep emotion, as it is a mirror of his priestly soul, of his love for Christ and people, of his commitment precisely to little ones, in the sign of the psalm we have just heard.”
Pope Benedict XVI was to travel to Turkey , his first official visit to a Muslim country, in November, the Vatican has announced.
The Pope accepted an invitation by the Turkish president to visit the country on November 28-30 and details of the visit were being worked out, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls reportedly said in a statement. (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Turkey and Vatican City ).