Reacting to news of the assassination last Sunday of a Catholic priest in Turkey, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints told the Italian daily La Repubblica, “With the sacrifice of Andrea Santoro, the Church is once again colored in red, the color of the blood of martyrs."
The Portuguese cardinal called for restraint in laying blame for the killing on Islam. “Before saying anything and giving an opinion one must know the whole truth. The context that led to this tragedy must be explained,” he said, adding that it would be “a grave error to blame an entire religious creed” for the actions of one individual.
According to a witness of the killing, an assailant who shouted, “Allah is great”, gunned down the 60 year-old missionary priest.
Cardinal Saraiva said the Church “does not feel threatened, and it’s a mistake to talk about religious war because every faith is against war and against the misuse of God’s image.” He said he did not yet see a link between the killing and Muslim violence that has broken out over the publishing of cartoons containing the image of Mohammed. The Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdula Gul, said Monday the killing was “not related” to the protests. “We think this is a purely individual act, but we do not yet know the motive behind it,” he added.
The Apostolic Vicar for Anatolia, Msgr. Luigi Padovese, said Father Santoro’s ministry to prostitutes in the region could also be a possible motive for the murder. “We don’t know why it happened,” he said, underscoring that nothing yet has been ruled out.
Father George Marovitch, spokesman for the Bishops’ Conference of Turkey, said the killing could have been the work of someone mentally ill, or in reaction to the cartoons of Mohammed, or the work of organized crime.
Speaking to the Fides news agency, Father Marovitch said that while Christians in Turkey are living in a period of uncertainty, they are not fearful thanks to the good relationship with civil authorities and Muslim leaders in the country. He said he did not believe the killing would have political repercussions, as the government is doing everything possible to keep the situation under control.