A letter written by murdered priest Andrea Santoro to Pope Benedict XVI on January 31, 2006 is being published in the Hurriyet today, on the same day that the Vatican's official publication, the L'Osservatore Romano, gives space to the letter.
Thought at first to contain important clues to Santoro's death this past Sunday, it was later concluded that the letter didn't touch on any other subject than efforts Santoro was making to help Georgian women who were living in Trabzon. Following his murder, it was revealed that one possible motive behind Santoro's death could be Trabzon mafia's anger with the priest's work in trying to save women from the notorious prostitution rings in the area. What follows is highlights from a letter posted by Father Santoro from Rome to the Pope, written on a visit to Italy during January:
"My dear Pope,
I am writing to you in the name of some Georgian citizens, and in the name of the Santa Maria church in Trabzon. They have written to me in Turkish, and I have translated these letters. I am in Rome, and now I am telling you exactly what they said to me, in their own words. I am Father Andrea Santoro. I am the Roman Archbishop's representative in Turkey, and for 5 years, I have been in Trabzon. My entire parish is composed of only nine Catholics, this in a city 99% Muslim, with quite a few Orthodox too. I would like now to pass on to you the letters of three Catholic Georgians:
"Dear Beloved Pope,
I greet you in the name of all Georgians, and in the name of Jesus. We are very happy that you were chosen by God to be Pope. Please pray for us, as well as for all the poor and the children in the world. Georgians are very poor. They have big debts. They have no homes, and no work. Right now, we are working in Trabzon. Please, visit Trabzon, and we will see you in person. A visit from you would be the biggest celebration ever for us. Our wish, in the name of Christianity, is for peace and health. Please, send an answer, and a signed picture of yourself.
Please pray for Father Andrea Santoro and his niece Loredana, and pray that God lifts up his church in Trabzon.
Maria, Marina, Maria"
Father Santoro closes his letter to Pope Benedict by asking that the Pope visit Trabzon, reminding him that though those who await him in the Black Sea city are few, that a visit from him would mean everything.
An historic gesture by Sezer
The dates for a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Turkey this year have been confirmed by Ankara. The Pope will visit between November 28-December 1 as the official guest of President Ahmet Necdet Sezer. Earlier this year, the Pope had wanted to visit Turkey to participate in celebrations in honor of Saint Andreas Yortusu at the Fener Greek Patriarchate, but Ankara had not agreed to this, wanting to itself be the official host if and when the Pope came. The news of a confirmation from Ankara on visit dates comes straight on the heels of news of Father Andrea Santoro's murder in Trabzon.