Bishop calls for calm in wake of Turkey’s failed coup

A leading Catholic prelate in Turkey has called for calm and dialogue in the wake of a failed military uprising there.

As Turkish authorities continue a crackdown against thousands of suspected participants in the failed July 15 coup, as well as against members of the judiciary, Bishop Paolo Bizzeti, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, who is based in the city of Iskenderun, spoke of the need to now use the “weapon of dialogue” in place of the violence which had sought to overthrow the government, and the violence which had greeted it.  

Sealed bridges

It is believed at least 290 people died when a faction within the army took to the streets and sealed bridges in Istanbul on the night of July 15. 

As The Irish Catholic went to press this week, some 6,000 soldiers and civilians had been arrested as the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reacted to events and sought to crush dissent.

Speaking to Vatican Radio, Bishop Bizzeti said “it is difficult, even for us, to understand the real dimensions of this struggle”, before adding that recent times in Turkey have been marked  by the “politics of hate, of confrontation, and this evidently at some point leads to a larger explosion.”

A controversial leader, President Erdogan has been accused of taking Turkey further from its secular foundations as he courts Islamists in his bid for greater influence across the wider Arab world. Press freedoms in Turkey have been seriously curtailed under his rule, as have parliamentary freedoms under his plan to transfer ever greater powers to the presidency.

The courting of the Islamic base within Turkey reportedly paid dividends for Mr Erdogan as the military coup unfolded. 

According to one Catholic priest, Fr Paolo Pugliese OFMCap, based in the province of Hatay on the border with Syria: “During the night the imams at short intervals launched appeals from the loudspeakers of mosques, in addition to prayers, inviting everyone to take to the streets to express their support for the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan”. 

Fr Pugliese reported that even in his parish, citizens responded to the call and took to the streets.

Observers of the rise of President Erdogan now fear that the coup will strengthen his hand in wiping out all opposition to his rule.