.- According to Bishop Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of the Diocese of Anatolia, Turkey, the stabbing of a Catholic priest has exposed a media-led campaign to undermine the success of the Pope’s trip to the country.
Turkey’s beleaguered Christian population of barely 100,000 were shocked after the elderly French Father Pierre Brunissen was knifed - allegedly by a schizophrenic - in the northern port city of Samsun last week. It was the sixth attack on a Churchman in as many months.
Speaking to Aid to the Church in Need earlier this week, Bishop Padovese said the country’s media has spread lies about Fr Brunissen, 75, and called Christians “enemies.” He explained that the newspapers have made false claims that Fr Brunissen had tried to bribe people to win conversions. “The newspapers are trying to aggravate,” he added, “to show the Christians as enemies of Turkish people.” The bishop said the media reaction to the attack on Fr Brunissen had coincided with hostile comments about Pope Benedict XVI’s scheduled visit to Turkey in November: “There are some who will search out all the possibilities to reduce the positive effects of the trip.”
Reporting on media opposition to the planned meeting between the Pope and Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I, Bishop Padovese stated: “Many, many people think it is not acceptable for the Pope to visit the Patriarch. They have a very negative attitude.” He referred to newspaper reports calling on the Holy Father not to pray while visiting the Hagia Sophia, one of Christendom’s greatest achievements - a vast cathedral which was turned into a mosque before becoming a museum. “The newspaper reports were saying that the Pope should remember Hagia Sophia is now a museum, not a place of worship. They say they will be very critical of him if he starts praying there.”
Stressing how the media was inciting religious hatred among Turkey’s Muslim population, he said, “If you read the newspapers and listen to the TV, what you see about Christians is very negative. The authorities are trying to search for dialogue, but if the opinions of the media are so negative, how is it possible to talk about dialogue?”