Issue Date: March 3, 2006
Father's words complicate martyr claim; priest's mother offers forgiveness
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Beatifying Fr. Andrea Santoro, the Italian priest gunned down Feb. 5 in Turkey while his teenage assassin shouted, Allahu akhbar! could be complicated by claims that the killer was psychologically unbalanced.
The reports appeared in mid-February in an interview with the teenagers father in the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera.
In his homily at the Feb. 10 funeral Mass, Cardinal Camillo Ruini announced that he intends to open a sainthood cause for Santoro. Ruini said that the death of the 61-year-old priest of the Rome diocese contains all the constitutive elements of Christian martyrdom. Ruini is vicar of the Rome diocese and president of the Italian bishops conference.
If Santoro is found to be a martyr, then there is no need to establish miracles performed after death in order to beatify him, and just one to canonize him. In practical terms, it means the cause could move along more quickly. (Ruini seemed to suggest he would not petition Benedict XVI for a waiver from the standard five-year waiting period before the cause can begin, saying he would respect fully the laws and the rhythms of the church.)
The traditional standard for martyrdom is odium fidei -- that the person was killed out of hatred for the faith. John Paul II appeared to stretch the standard on a couple of occasions -- including the 1982 canonization of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died at Auschwitz because he volunteered to take someone elses place, not because he was Catholic or a priest. Some have even spoken of a de facto new standard for martyrdom -- odium amoris, hatred of love, that could also apply to candidates such as Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Fr. Pino Puglisi of Sicily.
Yet on the whole, experts at the Congregation for Saints generally want to see evidence that there was a specifically anti-Christian, or anti-Catholic, motive for the persons death.
If it turns out that Santoros killer was mentally unhinged and has been under psychiatric care, as his father told the Italian press, it could make the process more complicated, since it would be difficult to know whether odium fidei or psychosis caused him to pull the trigger.
* * *
Heres an English translation of an interview with Hikmet Akdin, 58, the father of 16-year-old Ouzhan Akdin, which appeared in the Feb. 12 Corriere della Sera.
Q: Your son shot Fr. Andrea while he was praying in church. He
shouted, Allahu akhbar, God is great, and he said that
he was upset by the cartoons about Muhammad published in Europe. Why do you
rule out a religious motive?
Then how did it happen?
When did you realize he was serious?
Have you seen him since?
Did he ask for something?
Is he a heavy user of the Internet?
Your son shot Fr. Andrea with a Glock. Its an expensive weapon,
and hard to come by, even for experienced criminals.
The youths who live near the Church of St. Mary say that Ouzhan
received money from Fr. Andrea.
Fr. Andreas mother said she has forgiven Ouzhan with all
John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is email@example.com. For his complete Word from Rome column, go to www.NCRonline.org.
National Catholic Reporter, March 3, 2006
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