Turkey: Murder of an Italian priest

Source: FSSPX News


Andrea Santoro, an Italian missionary priest of Charles de Foucauld, age 60, was murdered on Sunday February 5, in the church of Saint-Mary in the town of Tresibonde, near the Black See, after celebrating his Mass.

On February 8, the Turkish police arrested the alleged murderer, a 16-year old youth who confessed having waited till Fr. Santoro finished his Mass to follow him and shoot him point-blank. The young man would have then shouted: "Allah ou Akbar" (Allah is great) confirmed Bishop Giacomo Lucibello, apostolic nuncio in Turkey.

Born in Priverno, in the diocese of Latina on September 7, 1945, and ordained priest on March 15, 1970, he had served in the Roman parishes of Jesus of Nazareth and Saints Fabian and Venantius. Fr. Santoro had been in Tresibonde for over two years, he was known and appreciated by all, especially for his social commitment, his constant solicitude and for being always available.

"This tragic event, declared Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the pope’s vicar for Rome, adds a new link to the long chain of Roman priests who shed their blood for the Lord. Don Andrea had ardently desired and insistently asked to be allowed to leave Rome for Anatolia in order to be, in that land, the silent and praying witness of Jesus Christ while respecting the local laws. The diocese of Rome, even in this great sorrow, is proud of him, and thank the Lord for this luminous testimony, with the humble certitude that from it will rise a new Christian life".

"With the hope that his blood become the seed of hope in the building up of a true brotherhood between nations, I send up fervent intercessory prayers for this courageous witness to the Gospel of charity. Wholeheartedly, I address the apostolic blessing, as a sign of solace, to his family, his aged mother sorely tried, and to all those who mourn this violent death", wrote Benedict XVI in his telegram of condolences.

Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, president of the Italian Republic, also sent a message of condolences to the mother of the murdered priest: "The tragic death of don Andrea as he was praying in a church in Turkey, deeply moved me. His pastoral activity, his passionate social and civil commitment in a foreign land, his deep confidence in the dialogue between religions and cultures will leave an indelible impression behind. His example of charity and kindness are a reference for all in the promotion of the shared values of tolerance, mutual respect, of the central character of human dignity." Likewise Walter Veltroni, mayor of Rome: "It is a  paradox, he said, that those who died are precisely people who turned their eyes towards the building of bridges of dialogue. He does not err who seeks dialogue with him who makes of the policy of hatred his reason for life".

Most of the Italian papers put forth the hypothesis that the murder was linked to the violent protests against the Danish cartoons. Don Andrea was however ardently promoting dialogue between Christians and Muslims, he was "an optimist by nature", underscore his parishioners who do not understand why he was murdered. Not without candor, the nuncio Lucibello confided to the Italian press agency Ansa his fear that religious motivations be behind this crime "at a time when interreligious dialogue is an absolute priority. Don Andrea was precisely the witness of such a dialogue, as well as a protagonist of the first rank". – Will this tragic death dispel the illusion of a unilateral interreligious dialogue in which one speaks while the other turns a deaf ear? In which one discusses and makes concession while the other asserts his authority without any concession?