Turkish Priest Attacked During Passion Play Rehearsal
“We have submitted a statement on the church attack in which we say that the young man did not come into the church to steal but to spread terror. We also call on the police to investigate what is behind the increasing number of attacks against the Church and Christian places of worship.”
Fr Hanri Leylek
Mersin, Turkey Capuchian Monk
March 14, 2006
Besides the murder of Father Andrea Santoro, there were two more attacks against priests in Turkey these last two months.
Priests carry the coffin of slain Italian Roman Catholic priest Andrea Santoro, as his mother Maria Polselli (2nd R) and other family members watch, at the end of his funeral in Saint John Basilica in Rome February 10, 2006. Santoro, the Italian priest murdered in a church in Turkey has all the makings of a Christian martyr and should be put on the road to sainthood, Italy’s top cardinal Camillo Ruini said at his funeral. (REUTERS/DARRIN ZAMMIT)
For the second time in the last two months a priest in the southern Turkish city of Mersin has been attacked.
Early Saturday evening a young man with a knife entered the parish of Capuchin Father Hanri Leylek, saying that he wanted to speak with a priest.
Aid to the Church in Need told ZENIT that young Turk insulted the priest and then threatened him with an 80-centimeter (31-inch) Kebab knife.
The priest was able to repel the aggressor, and that same evening the police arrested a suspect, a young Turk.
Bishop Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia, reported that this was the second time, in the last two months, that an attempt was made to kill a Catholic clergyman in the parish of Mersin, where 700 Catholics reside.
Norbert Neuhaus, secretary-general of Aid to the Church in Need, said Catholics in Turkey “are scared” about the effects that such acts will have on relations between the Muslim majority and Christian minority.
Fr Hanri Leylek, the priest who was threatened at the parish during a Passion Play rehearsal described the events of that evening:
Fr Hanri Leylek, one of the monks at the parish, wrote to AsiaNews: “Some newspapers said ‘the boy entered the Catholic Church, accusing the church of prostituting boys with girls coming to the church’, as if this was the main news”, thus leaving the attack aside.
What really happened was that “on 11 March, at around 7pm, while we were holding a rehearsal for the play of the Passion of Christ in the convent of the parish, a youth, of around 22 years, came in and mixed with the youth of the parish, and then elbowed his way into the convent. There were around 25 teenagers there, aged between 15 and 19 years. One of the boys called me, telling me there was a stranger creating problems, who wanted to talk to a priest. I went out of the room and started to talk to him; seeing that he was saying disjointed things and threats, I asked him to go outside. He refused and only threatened all the more, swearing. All this was happening in the corridor of the convent, where by now, the teenagers had gathered around. At this point, I decided to call the police. The telephone is in a booth in the corridor. I picked up the receiver and dialed the number of the police. All of a sudden, I saw the young people scatter and this youth came to the telephone booth with a sort of scimitar (a knife around 80 or 90cam long, used to cut Turkish doner kebabs) – it had been hidden behind his back – which he started to threaten me with.”
Fr Leylek continued: “I put the phone down and tried to calm him. Anyhow, if he wanted to, he could have harmed me; I was able to come out from the booth. In the meantime, Fr Robert too had come into the corridor. This time, the boy turned on Fr Robert and threatened him, clutching the knife. I managed to sneak out and to go to the police station near the church. Even Fr Robert tried to keep the youth calm. Then the boy turned towards the hall where the young people had rushed to. He broke the glass of the door with the long knife, opened the door and started to rummage in the jackets of the teenagers, taking a cell phone with him. The teenagers had left the hall and had locked themselves about the place, in rooms and bathrooms. The boy continued to shout and threaten. Within five minutes I was back in the convent with three or four policemen. They crossed the boy on the stairs of the convent. He threatened them too and they tried to talk to him to calm him down. In the meantime, journalists and a dozen police reached the scene. There was some 15 minutes talk and finally the boy surrendered to the police.”
“This was the second attack on our parish of Mersin. The first took place two months ago at around 4am. Another youth, tall and well-built, kicked down the two doors of the convent and forced his way in. He too wanted to talk to a priest.
However, he was not armed and he was very calm. We went to see what happened when we heard his cries. Two of us started to talk to him and I went to call the police; he went with them without resisting. The boy had also burned books in our parish information office.”
“The news was given by two newspapers the following day as a news item: ‘A thief entered the Catholic Church to steal but when he met the priest, he threatened him with a knife. Then everything ended with the arrival of the police’. However, other television news said: “The boy entered the Catholic church accusing the church of prostituting boys with girls coming to church’ (giving this news, the television showed clips of the boys and girls who had come for the rehearsal of the play). As if this was the main news.”
A young Muslim shot Father Andrea Santaro in the back twice, crying out “Allah Akbar” (God is great), while he prayed in his church.
Back in Europe the signers of the Manifesto against Islamic Radicalism are being targeted with death threats.