"A Moving Testimony of Love"
As announced at this morning's audience, today's L'Osservatore Romano published the letter sent to Benedict XVI on 31 January by Fr Andrea Santoro, a priest of Rome who was murdered on Sunday at his mission church in Turkey. At left, the priest's coffin rests in his parish church at Trabzon.
In the text, which Santoro wrote at the request of three Georgian women of his parish, the Pope was invited to visit the community on his coming visit to Turkey later this year.... Due to Sunday's tragic events, that visit might just take place as an encouragement to those who remain.
Below is the Whispers translation of the letter.
I write you in the name of the Georgian women of my parish, "Santa Maria" in Trabzon (Trebisonda) on the Black Sea in Turkey. They've dictated to me in Turkish, I've translated and sent it from their mouth so you could have it in time for my coming to Rome. I am Don Andrea Santoro, a "Fidei donum" [gift of Faith] priest of the church of Rome in Turkey, in the diocese of Anatolia, and have been here for five years. My flock is made up of 8 or 9 Catholics, many Orthodox of the city and the Muslims who form 99 percent of the population. It would be, Holiness, that as the bishop of my diocese of departure (Rome) so are you the bishop of my diocese of arrival from the from the moment it was called a "Vicariate apostolic." And it's to this double title that I deliver the letter of the three Georgians."DEAR PAPA,Holiness,
In the name of all the Georgians we greet you.
We ask God for your greeting in the name of Jesus.
We're so happy that God chose you as Pope. Pray for us, for the poor, for the troubled ones of all the world, for the children. We believe that your prayers go directly to God. The Georgians are very poor, in debt, without homes and without work. We're without strength.
We're living in Trabzon right now and working. Pray that God blesses us and creates in us a new and clean heart. We won't forget the Christian life and for the Turks we seek to be a good example in God's name so that, through us, they may see and glorify God.
We have many things to say and tell but, Inshallah [Arabic for "God willing"], if you come to Trabzon we can speak face to face. Your coming will be a joyous feast. We ask of God and we wish you good health, peace and the life of Christ. We kiss your hands. We will be happy if you can respond to us and send us an autographed photo. As our common father, pray for Don Andrea and Loredana, that God may give them strength and that, through them, the church may grow and multiply at Trabzon.
Maria, Marina and Maria."
In the name of the other Georgian Christians, we invite you to Trabzon for your coming visit to Turkey in November.
I unite myself to these three women in inviting you to come among us. It is a small flock, as Jesus said, but one that seeks to be salt, leaven and light on this earth. One visit from you, however quick, would be a consolation and encouragement for them. If God wishes it... for God nothing is impossible.
I greet you and thank you for everything. Your books were nourishment for me during my theology studies. Bless me. And may God bless and assist you.
Don Andrea Santoro
Priest "Fidei donum" of the diocese of Rome in Turkey,
diocese of Anatolia, city of Trabzon on the Black Sea,
Church of "Sancta Maria".
PHOTO: AP/Osman Orsal