Turkish election good for Catholics

By  Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
  • July 26, 2007
{mosimage}ROME - Anoverwhelming victory for Turkey’s ruling Islamic-oriented party should be a “positive thing” for the nation’s Catholics, said Bishop Luigi Padovese, apostolic administrator of Anatolia, Turkey.
“The relationships the prime minister has built up with Europe over the past years are such that it is difficult to imagine (there would be any) fundamentalist involvement” in shaping future

Turkish policies, Padovese told the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero July 24.

Padovese said he thought “Catholics might also demand” some of the reforms many moderate Muslims are asking for, such as greater freedom of expression.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party secured more than 46 per cent of the votes at the end of general elections July 22. The win gave the centre-right, conservative party an absolute majority in the new parliament, with 341 of the 550 legislative seats.

{sidebar id=2} “Erdogan will continue his platform of reforms,” Padovese said.

Turkey’s Constitution establishes strict controls over public expressions of religious belief and policies, which include restricting Muslim women from wearing head scarves and a general decree against private religious colleges.

Padovese said if secularism in the past helped foster the development of democracy in Turkey and “did not allow real religious pluralism, now it is desirable that (such pluralism) be put into effect.”

He said the prevailing opinion of most Catholics and the Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs “is support for Erdogan. He has moved toward reforms and he offers, in this aspect, guarantees,” the bishop said.

The prime minister called the victory a “triumph of democracy” and promised the party would “press ahead with reforms and economic development” as well as membership in the European Union, the Rome-based news agency AsiaNews reported July 23.

Erdogan said the party would strive for national unity and respect for “democracy and (the) secular nature” of Turkey’s government, reported AsiaNews.

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