Church in Turkey Appeals for Democracy


ISTANBUL, Turkey, JULY 31, 2008 ( "There are no alternatives to democracy," said the apostolic vicar in Anatolia, the day after Turkey's deadliest terrorist attack in five years killed 17 people.

Bishop Luigi Padovese, president of the Turkish episcopal conference, spoke with L'Osservatore Romano on Monday, expressing his apprehension as Turkey awaited a decision from the Constitutional Court about whether to ban the ruling party, accused of trying to move the nation away from its secular status toward an Islamic state.

Wednesday, the court decided not to ban the party, but withdrew several million dollars worth of state aid.

Speaking before the court had made a decision, the bishop contended: "The purpose of the bombs is obvious: to destabilize a situation that is already quite unsettled. Clearly, this is the way to interpret such an incident a day before the decision."

Sunday's attack in Istanbul killed 17 people when two bombs exploded.

Bishop Padovese lamented that an appeal from the Church -- in a nation where Christians and Jews combined are only 0.2% of the population -- will not be clearly heard.

"The appeal we can launch is of little value, as we are not such a representative reality," he said. "Nevertheless, the appeal is made to enable democracy to prevail in this country."

According to Bishop Padovese, the problems that exist "are linked to positions of power. There is a need to safeguard secularism and at the same time the right to give this secularism a democratic expression. Democracy always represents risks, but there are no alternatives to democracy.

"The situation in Turkey has remained in this immobility until now precisely because of the opposition between the forces of power. It is a bit like pulling a rope in which neither party is able to prevail, so things remain stuck in the middle."