Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Turkey - tragedy and beauty

Not getting much space in the newspapers over the last week or two was the murder of the Bishop of Anatolia in Turkey, Luigi Padovese. Bishop Padovese was chairman of the Bishops Conference of Turkey, and the Church has big problems in that country. He was killed by his driver. Anatolia is actually most of Turkey, a country where there are very few Catholics. They brought his body back to Italy, his native country, and the funeral took place in Milan Cathedral (right). 27 bishops concelebrated, with 350 priests, and a congregation of some 5,000. As with the last few popes, his coffin was laid humbly, directly on the floor.
I visited Turkey back in the 1990s when I did a coach tour of many of the places of interest, starting and ending at Istanbul. We went down the west coast calling at Gallipoli, Troy, Pergamum, Smyrna and Kusadasi. Then we headed inland via Ephesus and others of the "Seven Churches of Asia" and the amazing geological formations of Pamukkale, to Konya. This large city was the Iconium of St Paul's travels, but is better known now as the home and resting place of Rumi or Mevlana, the founder of the Whirling Dervishes. The colour of the tiles on the dome over his grave is one of the lasting memories of that trip (left).
Then further eastwards, to Cappadocia with its amazing rock pillars formed by the elements, and its beautiful churches carved out of the rock. We headed back westwards via the capital Ankara, Gordion, burial place of King Midas, and Bursa, early cradle of the Ottomans (where someone took a memorable photo of me with one of the skirt things on that they give you if you're wearing shorts!) Then it was back to wonderful Istanbul, a trip up the Bosphorus, my favourite Byzantine image at St Saviour in Chora, and an evening at the belly-dancing... but that's for another blog posting!
Please remember Bishop Padovese in your prayers, and the Catholics of Turkey.