Turkey Investigating Capuchin for Baptizing a Muslim

Case Worries a Fellow Religious

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ANKARA, Turkey, JAN. 14, 2003 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- Turkish authorities are investigating a Capuchin friar for baptizing a 26-year-old Muslim who asked for the sacrament but later turned on the priest.



Italian Father Roberto Ferrari, 70, whose passport has been seized, has been a missionary in Turkey for the past 45 years. The Capuchins have several houses and missions in the country.

Another Capuchin, Father Mario Cappucci, who is familiar with Turkey, said that "Father Roberto baptized a 26-year-old youth in the mission of Iskenderun, on the border with Syria, who had asked insistently that the sacrament be administered to him, after appropriate preparation."

"However, the youth then denounced the missionary to the Turkish authorities, who removed his passport and put him under investigation," said Father Cappucci, 67.

Father Cappucci is the chaplain at Santa Maria Nuova hospital in Reggio, Italy, and a native of Quara, a town of the region, where Father Ferrari was born.

Father Cappucci was surprised at the news. "I have been in that country some 30 to 40 times, both to lead pilgrimages as well as to visit our houses," he said. "I have good relations with the guides and with different authorities. I never expected an incident like this."

"The situation in Turkey is certainly complex," he added. "However, this serious event is worrying."

In fact, although the constitutional law guarantees religious freedom, there are strong social pressures against conversion from Islam -- the main religion in Turkey -- to Christianity. In some regions, local authorities back the persecution of Christian communities, especially the Chaldeans.

"Why does Turkey call itself a secular state and put a friar under investigation who baptized a converted Muslim?" Father Cappucci asked. "Why can't religious wear their habit?"

"A lay state is not concerned with these matters," he added. "And this is happening in countries that would like to form part of Europe, where human rights are the foundation of the secular state."

He further stressed: "Father Roberto did not baptized an unconscious child, but an adult who consented to it."