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Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum


THE VICTIMAND HIS MISSIONConsecrated bishop in November 2004, halfa year following Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s elevationto the papacy, Padovese belonged to thebody of intellectually sharp, proactive clerics whoshare Benedict XVI’s ecumenical understandingof the church and its global mission of evangelization,especially in the Islamic Middle East where acentury of intensive de-Christianization now threatensthe faith’s regional existence.Padovese’s mission in Turkey was to helpsave the country’s Christian community from extinctionand to create conditions for its religiousand cultural renaissance. Rejecting the church’shistoric dhimmi status as a protected religiousminority under Islam—which reduced it to littlemore than a submissive worshipping agencywith no other legitimate activity—he viewedTurkey’s European Union candidacy as a goldenopportunity for winning significant concessionsfrom Ankara andpinned high hopes on thePadovese’sSpecial Assembly for theMiddle East of the Synodmission was toof Bishops, which tooksave Turkey’s place in Rome in OctoberChristian2010. 5 However, the synodcommunity from ended on a sour note.While confirming the SecondVatican Council’sextinction andcreate conditions positive shift in attitude towardJudaism and un-for its renaissance.equivocal rejection ofanti-Semitism, the MiddleEastern bishops sought to enhance the securityof their flocks by playing an anti-Israel card andcriticizing Israel—the one country of the regionwith a growing Christian population—with a directnessthat was not employed in relation to anyIslamic state, no matter how repressive.Had it not been for his murder, the bishop5 Bishop Luigi Padovese, “Christians in Turkey: From theCradle of Christianity to the Persecuted Minority,” presentation,St. Louis Catholic Parish, Ansbach, Germany, June 18,2009.would have traveled to meet the pope in Cypruson the very next day for the launch of the synod’sInstrumentum laboris, the Vatican’s strategicplan for reviving Christianity in its Middle Easterncradle, to which Padovese was a substantialcontributor.Though written in low-key Vatican jargon, theInstrumentum laboris is full of radical implicationsfor Turkey and the broader Middle East. 6 In contrastto the common post-9/11 predilection todownplay Islamism’s less savory aspects, thedocument does not gloss over the disadvantagedposition of Christians in the Islamic world and identifiesthe issue of human rights, including religiousfreedom, as central to the well-being of the wholeof society:Oftentimes, relations between Christians andMuslims are difficult, principally becauseMuslims make no distinction between religionand politics, thereby relegating Christians tothe precarious position of being considerednon-citizens, despite the fact that they werecitizens of their countries long before the riseof Islam. The key to harmonious living betweenChristians and Muslims is to recognizereligious freedom and human rights. 7This harmonious living was to be achievedthrough a policy of dialogue—defined byBenedict XVI at the beginning of his papacy as “avital necessity, on which in large measure our futuredepends” 8 —that would identify the commonground between the two religions: service to society,respect for common moral values, the avoidanceof syncretism, joint opposition to the atheism,materialism, and relativism emanating from theWestern world, and a collective rejection of religious-basedviolence, that is—killing in the nameof God.The Instrumentum laboris also encourageda search—together with Muslim reformers—for a6 “The Catholic Church in the Middle East: Communion andWitness. ‘Now the company of those who believed were of oneheart and soul’ (Acts 4:32),” Synod of Bishops, Special Assemblyfor the Middle East, Vatican City, June 6, 2010.7 Ibid., p. 37.8 “Address of His Holiness Benedict XVI,” meeting withrepresentatives of Muslim communities, Cologne, LibreriaEditrice Vaticana (Rome), Aug. 20, 2005.42 / MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY SPRING 2011

new system of church-state relations,which it referred to as “positivelaicity.” But the Vatican does not upholdTurkey’s secularism—which theGeorge W. Bush and Obama administrationshave praised as a model forthe Islamic world—as the answer. “InTurkey,” the Instrumentum laborisnotes—undoubtedly on account ofthe influence of Bishop Padovese—“the idea of ‘laicity’ is currently posingmore problems for full religiousfreedom in the country.” The workingdocument did not elaborate but simplystated that the aim of this “positive,”as opposed to “Turkish laicity,”would be to help eliminate the theocraticcharacter of government andallow for greater equality among citizensof different religions, therebyfostering the promotion of a sounddemocracy, positively secular in nature,which also fully acknowledgesthe role of religion in public life while completelyrespecting the distinction between the religiousand civic orders. 9These were the principles that guidedPadovese’s Turkish mission. He worked in theclear knowledge that “faithfully witnessing toChrist”—as the synod’s preparatory documentacknowledges—“can lead to persecution.” 10 Andso it did.CONSPIRACY OF SILENCEWithin hours of Padovese’s death, the provincialgovernor preempted the results of policeinvestigations with the announcement that themurder was not politically motivated but rathercommitted by a lone lunatic. 11 Moreover, in anattempt to eliminate any Islamic motive, NTV Turkeyannounced that the murderer was not actuallya Muslim but a convert to Catholicism. 12The brutal murder on June 3, 2010, of the head of Turkey’sCatholic church, Bishop Luigi Padovese, seen here in2006 leading the funeral procession of another slainpriest, Andrea Santoro, was met by denials andobfuscation—not only by the Turkish authorities butalso by Western governments and even the Vatican.Then the police leaked word—allegedly from theassassin—that he had been “forced to sufferabuse” in a homosexual relationship with thebishop and that the killing had been an act of “legitimatedefense.” 13It is true that Turkey’s minister for culture andtourism, Ertuðrul Günay, issued a short message ofcondolences on behalf of the government 14 andthat the foreign ministry expressed regret to theinternational media. But neither President AbdullahGül nor Prime Minister Erdoðan expressed theirown condolences or publicly addressed the murderof the head of their country’s Catholic Church,and even the foreign ministry’s statement took careto highlight the murderer’s alleged “psychologicalproblems.” 15Erdoðan’s silence in response to this nationaltragedy was particularly striking. Together withSpanish prime minister Jose Luis RodriguesZapatero, the Turkish prime minister and leader of9 “The Catholic Church in the Middle East,” pp. 10-12.10 Ibid., p. 44.11 ANSA News Agency, Vatican City, June 3, 2010.12 Agence France-Presse, June 4, 2010.13 Asia News, June 7, 2010.14 Press release, Turkish Ministry of Culture and Tourism,June 3, 2010.15 CNN, June 3, 2010.Eibner: Turkish Christians / 43

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