01-03-2006 - Traces, n.3

Islam/ Turkey Fr. Andrea Santoro

A few days before he was killed, Fr. Andrea Santoro sent this letter to Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope himself revealed this during his General Audience on February 8th. “It is a mirror of his priestly soul,” he said, “of his love for Christ and for men, of his commitment to the little ones.”

Holy Father, I am writing to you on behalf of some Georgian women from my parish of Sancta Maria, in Trabzon, on the Black Sea, in Turkey. They dictated it to me in Turkish, and I translated it as it came from their mouths, and so you will have it when I return to Rome. I am Fr. Andrea Santoro, a fidei donum priest of the Church of Rome in Turkey, in the Diocese of Anatolia, here for five years now. My flock is formed of 8-9 Catholics, the many Orthodox of the city, and the Muslims who form 99% of the population. You, your Holiness, are the Bishop of my diocese of origin (Rome) as well as the Bishop of my current diocese here, since it is an Apostolic Vicariate. So with this double title I am sending you this letter from the three Georgian women:
“Dear Pope: We greet you in the name of all Georgians. We ask God to give you health in the name of Jesus. We are very happy that God has chosen you as Pope. Pray for us, for the poor, for the miserable of the entire world, for the children. We believe that your prayers go directly to God. The Georgians are very poor; they are in debt, homeless, and jobless. We are without strength. We are living and working in Trabzon at the moment. Pray that God may bless us and create in us a new and clean heart. We do not forget the Christian life, and for the Turks we try to be a good example in the name of God, so that through us they may see and glorify God. We have many things to say and to tell, but, Inshallah, if you would come to Trabzon we could speak face-to-face. Your coming would be a happy party. We ask from God and wish for you health and peace and Christian life. We kiss your hands. We would be happy if you would answer us and send us a photo with your signature. As our father in common, pray for Fr. Andrea and Loredana, that God may give them strength, and that through them the Church in Trabzon may grow and multiply.
Mary, Marina, and Mary”
In the name of the other Georgian Christians, we invite you to Trabzon for your upcoming trip to Turkey in November. Your Holiness, I join with these three women in truly inviting you to come to us. It is a small flock, as Jesus said, that tries to be salt, leaven, and light in this land. A visit of yours, however brief, would be of consolation and encouragement. If God so desires…. Nothing is impossible for God. I bid you farewell and thank you for everything. I have drawn nourishment from your books in my theology studies. Bless me. May God bless and help you, too.
Fr. Andrea Santoro
January 31, 2006