Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ANKARA1477
2006-03-21 09:33:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Ankara
Cable title:  

TURKEY: ATTACK ON CATHOLIC CLERGY AMID

Tags:  PGOV PHUM TU ADANA 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001477 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2021
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU ADANA
SUBJECT: TURKEY: ATTACK ON CATHOLIC CLERGY AMID
ANTI-CATHOLIC PUBLIC CRITICISM

REF: ANKARA 522

(U) Classified by DCM Nancy McEldowney, reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ANKARA 001477

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/17/2021
TAGS: PGOV PHUM TU ADANA
SUBJECT: TURKEY: ATTACK ON CATHOLIC CLERGY AMID
ANTI-CATHOLIC PUBLIC CRITICISM

REF: ANKARA 522

(U) Classified by DCM Nancy McEldowney, reasons 1.4 (b) and
(d).


1. (U) This message is from AmConsulate Adana.


2. (SBU) Summary: A Catholic friar and several other church
members were attacked on March 11 in the Mersin Catholic
church by a Turkish man wielding a knife and yelling
anti-Christian epithets. No one was injured. Catholic
contacts told us that Catholic clergy feel targeted, and
assert that the police believe that there is a broader effort
afoot to attack clergy in Anatolia. A recent exchange of
combative letters in local newspapers between the Iskenderun
mayor and the Catholic Archbishop for Anatolia is indicative
of the hostile relationship between local authorities and
Catholics. The attack follows a February murder of a
Catholic priest in Trabzon (reftel). End Summary.


3. (SBU) An AmCit nun who is secretary to the Bishop of the
Catholic Church in Iskenderun, in southern Turkey, told
Consulate Adana Principal Officer (PO) on March 14 about the
attack by a young Turkish man on a Catholic friar and several
other church members, including children practicing a passion
play. During the attack, which she said lasted 30 minutes,
the man yelled anti-Christian epithets and accused the
priests of maintaining a brothel in the church. The other
clergy in the church called the police, who came and arrested
the young man. Contacts at the Mersin Catholic church told
us on March 14 that the Mersin Prosecutor released the
alleged assailant the day after his arrest.

Clergy Feels Targeted
--------------


4. (C) In a March 2 conversation with Adana PO,
Iskenderun-based Catholic Archbishop for Anatolia Monsignor
Luigi Padovese said that Catholic clergy feel targeted. The
Archbishop said that the Iskenderun Deputy Governor and
Turkish National Police (TNP) were being supportive, but that
he was being vilified in the Iskenderun press by Iskenderun
Mayor Mete Arslan. (Note: Arslan, a mid-1990,s International
Visitor Program participant, was elected from the
center-right Motherland Party (ANAP),but holds
ultranationalist views. He is widely considered in
Iskenderun to be jockeying for a future parliamentary seat.
End note.) The Archbishop claimed that the TNP believed a

broader effort was afoot to target and attack clergy in
Anatolia and had assigned him and other prominent clergy
police protection. The Bishop asserted that the TNP told him
they had intercepted faxes among different members of a
Turkey-wide conspiracy which was targeting Catholic clergy.
As a result, the TNP had offered the Bishop police protective
details, which he has started using, although he complains
that it isolates him from his community and violates his
privacy.

Hostile Tone Characterizes Public Criticism of Catholics
-------------- --------------


5. (SBU) In a February 14 press statement published in Olay
newspaper, a local Iskenderun daily, Mayor Arslan said, "The
world is becoming smaller and people are getting closer to
each other. But, while we are getting closer to people we
are very openly distanced from them culturally. The most
sacred position of the people is their religion. But, there
are some ill-intentioned people who would like to demolish
our values.8 The mayor, who openly opposes Turkey,s EU
accession, went on to imply that the EU threatens Turkey,s
traditional respect for all religious faiths, and said that
&there was no problem (with religious intolerance) in Turkey
prior to the EU (process).8 The mayor then referred to the
February murder of a Catholic priest in the city of Trabzon,
mistakenly stating that &while there is not one single
Catholic in Trabzon, there is a Catholic church there. It
appears that someone intends to sell snails in a Muslim
quarter (i.e., stir up trouble).8


6. (SBU) Archbishop Padovese,s response to Arslan was
published in the February 16 Olay. Padovese described the
Catholic Church's service in Trabzon, claimed the mayor was
unaware of the facts, and said the mayor had made baseless
accusations against Christians.

7. (SBU) Mayor Arslan replied in a rambling February 23
article in another Iskenderun daily. Arslan called
Padovese's letter reproachful and insulting, claimed he had
condemned the Trabzon murder, and accused Christians of
double standards with respect to alleged mistreatment of
Muslims in Iraq, Bosnia, and other parts of Europe.


8. (C) The Archbishop said the exchange of letters with the
mayor disturbed him because what the Archbishop perceived as
the mayor's "casual" mention of the killing of the priest
created a public environment in which the use of violence was
made more acceptable.

Comment
--------------


9. (SBU) The attack against the friar occurs against the
backdrop of the February murder of a Catholic priest in
Trabzon. While Turks generally responded to the Prophet
Muhammed cartoons with peaceful protests, in contrast to many
of their Muslim neighbors, a fear of Christianity ) which
they see as representing the West - lurks beneath the surface
for many.

Visit Ankara's Classified Web Site at
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/ankara/

WILSON