Vatican calls for Catholic legal rights in Turkey

ANSA English Media Service
October 19, 2004


Vatican City

(ANSA) – Vatican City, October 19 – A senior Vatican
official has called on Turkey to grant legal recognition to
the Catholic community in the giant Muslim country.

Monsignor Pietro Parolin, undersecretary of the
Vatican’s ‘foreign ministry’, noted that the Catholic Church
had been pushing for guarantees of religious freedom in
Turkey for several years.

The Vatican wants to negotiate a formal accord with the
Turkish state which establishes rights and duties on both
sides. The accord would also clear up problems concerning
priests’ visas and the management of Catholic property in

There are about 120,000 Catholics in Turkey, in a total
population of 70 million. Few of them are native Turks, most
are Armenians, Chaldeans or Turkish citizens of European

The question of Catholic rights in Muslim Turkey is
tightly intertwined with the debate over whether the country
should be allowed to join the predominantly Christian
European Union.

The Vatican’s top doctrinal, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger,
said a few months ago that Turkey should not be allowed to
join the EU because its history and culture set it apart
from Europe.

The Pope has frequently – and as yet vainly – argued
that Europe’s Christian roots should be written into the EU’s
new constitution.

The EU is expected to fix a starting date for
negotiations on Turkish membership at a summit in the
Netherlands this December.