.- The Pope’s upcoming trip to Turkey will serve to encourage and strengthen the small minority of Catholics in the country, Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, said this week.
Speaking at the Italian section of Aid to the Church in Need, Bishop Padovese said that the presence of Catholics in Turkey – and “especially the presence of Catholic priests” – “is seen as something in contrast to Turkish nationalism.”
“Therefore,” the bishop said, “the Pope will not only come to encourage us, but also to strengthen us in our Christian identity, given that we are a small minority, which often must make itself ‘less visible’ in order to avoid serious problems of social and religious co-existence.”
Padovese said there is a desire on the part of many Turks to reduce the presence of Christians in the country. “In small towns and villages,” the bishop lamented, “there are often churches without communities and, in those cases, the local authorities confiscate the buildings.”
“Those Catholics who have the means to do so send their children to study abroad and, in most cases, they do not return to Turkey…The major part of Christians here are in fact manual workers and so many are unemployed,” the bishop said.
As a result the bishop said, the Church in Turkey, “has made a choice of non-proselytism but is available for all those who are interested in Christianity. Our churches are always open in the afternoon for whoever wants to meet the priests.”
“Islam is religion and life in society, religion and culture, and, therefore, choosing another faith means isolating oneself from their own context, with, in some cases, serious consequences,” Padovese said.
At the same time, Bishop Padovese noted his diocese’s use of electronic means of evangelization and the help which Aid to the Church in Need provides for such endeavours, “A website of the Vicariate already exists, but it needs economic aid from outside, including from ACN, in order to be run and enlarged…A radio station would also be necessary, most of all for the remotest and smallest Christian communities.”