Msgr. Bizzeti: No permission to build parishes in Turkey, yet Catholic number is growing

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The tiny Catholic community in Turkey faces a continuous crossroad. Without legal permission, the Church cannot build new parishes, schools or youth centers.

Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia
'Despite this we are a growing community. There are many people who want to receive catechesis in our parishes, but our problem is the lack of pastoral workers. When I do not have a priest for a parish, like now, the closest church is 125 miles to 185 miles from here. It means this community will end up disappearing.'

Msgr. Paolo Bizzeti is the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, that is, a bishop for Turkish Catholics, who represent 0.2 percent among more than 80 million people. Now this community also has thousands of Christian refugees, who are unable to receive adequate care because there are no resources or places for anything beyond basic help.

Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia
'That is why they want to leave Turkey and go to Europe, Canada, the United States or Australia. Unfortunately, the West is closed. Also the Christian communities are closed to these refugees and this is another painful situation both for them and for the local Christians. They can't understand why their brothers and sisters won't open their doors in these difficult moments of their lives.'

Msgr. Paolo Bizzeti regrets the fate of these Christian refugees. Many are trapped in Turkey after escaping the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and are unable to return to their countries or emigrate.

Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia
'That's why I believe that double awareness is needed. First in politics. It is unacceptable for a Christian, a Catholic in Italy, to vote for parties that expel immigrants. Second, it is necessary to ensure that Christian communities also help by sending people and pastoral workers. The distribution of human resources within the Church is also an injustice.'

In Turkey, San Pablo was born and is one of the first places where Christianity spread. While the Eastern Christians are very clear about their roots and their mission, Msgr. Bizzeti assures that Westerners have settled down and refused to receive the wealth of these churches, personified in their Christians.

Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia
'My sadness is as much for the Christians of the East, as for those of the West. I see them closed, with little energy. Meanwhile, our communities are full of energy, and have a strong faith that has been put to the test. Perhaps we are too well off. We are still a Church rich in people, means and tools. Yet, it is difficult for us to even print a book.'

The Apostolic Vicar asks for help in the form of priests, catechists and religious for communities that after suffering war and persecution, will now have to face another difficult test: overcoming the physical and emotional wounds of the tragedy.

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