Islam on the Beach and the Rapid Islamization of Turkey

Tuesday, September 02, 2014 7:50 PM Comments (20)

Signs of Islamic radicalization are everywhere East of the Bosporus, even on Turkey’s legendary beaches.

In early July, small groups of Muslim men and boys, roving Black Sea coastal resorts, confronted women in bathing suits, urging them to cover up. The men distributed a pamphlet titled, “Being the Lady God Wants” with guidance for Muslim modesty.

Among the 70 points were rules such as:

  • A pious woman should not shake hands with a man she does not already know.
  • She should ask permission from her husband to go outside.
  • She should avoid attending weddings where music is played.
  • She should never sit in public places.

 The main message: Pious women should not show skin.

Having...READ MORE

Filed under assad, catholicism, islam, modesty, muslim women, national catholic register, syria, turkey, victor gaetan

Catholic Hungary Discovering Turkic Identity—and Suleyman’s Heart?

Friday, August 01, 2014 11:23 AM Comments (43)

One hundred years ago, a village priest added a white marble plaque to St Maria Church’s facade out in a field in southern Hungary.


Not fluent in Arabic or Hungarian, I can’t read it, but a friend translated: “In 1566…Sultan Suleyman’s princely heart and intestines were buried in this place…God’s mercy be upon him.”

That Suleyman the Magnificent died in his tent of natural causes—as his army closed in on the Szigetvar fortress blocking their march to Vienna—is established fact.

Whether his heart remained in this earth is a historical mystery being tackled by archeologists and historians, financed by the Turkish government.

Suleyman was one of Turkey’s greatest leaders. Under his...READ MORE

Filed under hungary, turkey, victor gaetan

Over a Million Syrian Refugees, Turkey’s PM Erdogan Didn’t Bargain For

Catholic Charities Playing Key Role in Heartbreaking Setting

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 11:04 AM Comments (0)

Miserable young women crouch or slump on sidewalks, holding listless babies, every 10 feet on major avenues in Istanbul. I’m heartbroken to see a little girl about 6 years old, alone at the Metro, as lost and mangy as an abandoned dog. 

“Syrian refugees,” tourists tell each other, dodging clusters of very young children, dirty and shoeless, begging for coins.

The refugee crisis in Turkey is overwhelming.

It’s the most stable country in an instable region, bordering eight countries, including Syria, Iraq, and Iran.  For the last 10 years, people fleeing war and fear have cascaded across Turkey’s borders, most intensely since 2011 when civil war began in Syria.

Over one million Syrian...READ MORE

Filed under refugees, syria, turkey, victor gaetan

Re-Islamization in Istanbul: Hagia Sophia Next?

Monday, July 14, 2014 6:25 AM Comments (32)

Visiting Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), Christianity’s first mighty cathedral — now a museum — inaugurated by Byzantine Emperor Justinian in Constantinople in 537, is a mixed blessing.

Nothing can undercut the raw power of this huge structure, constructed in less than six years. Nothing can prevent glimmers of its former splendor from piercing my soul.

Spying the central mosaic of Mother Mary holding Jesus, high up in the semi-dome above the missing altar, I shiver thinking of all she’s survived: earthquakes, invasion, theft, concealment.

But the place is more…dingy than I expected considering its great significance: the building changed the course of sacred construction; it was the world’s...READ MORE

Filed under christianity, hagia sophia, islam, istanbul, middle east, secularization, turkey

Turkey: Secularist Siege Against Orthodox Church

Monday, July 07, 2014 11:13 PM Comments (2)

But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. Romans 8:25

Standing on a hilltop high over the Marmara Sea, I admire the lush grounds of a sacred Orthodox Christian site, the Holy Theological School of Halki. It’s hard for me to believe the sorrow, angst and political war fought over this island paradise overlooking Istanbul.

It’s a sign of the Orthodox Church’s health that it’s responding to the scandal on Heybeliada Island (Halki Island before Turkish rule) with love — and a flowering wonderland.


Locked Out

While it functioned as a school, between 1844 and 1971, the school produced more than 260 Orthodox bishops and 16 patriarchs, including Ecumenical Patriarch...READ MORE

Filed under holy theological school of halki, including ecumenical patriarch bartholomew of constantinople, turkey

Diplomatic Protection: Christianity in Ataturk’s Capital

Wednesday, July 02, 2014 6:07 PM Comments (6)

In Ankara, Turkey’s capital city, attending Mass on Sunday requires choosing between several embassies: the Italian, French, and Vatican properties each host Catholic chapels.

The British Embassy has a lovely Anglican church in its backyard while the Greek Embassy harbors a small Orthodox place of worship. Some Protestants hold services at a local U.S. military facility and evangelical denominations are said to rent office space.

But nowhere, in this metropolis of 5 million, will you find a free standing Christian church naming itself with a cross out front.

The situation results from a twist of history — and discrimination.


A New Capital

Ankara is one of the world’s “new” capitals,...READ MORE

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A Town, A Secretary, and a Book

St. John XXIII's birthplace celebrates his canonization and houses the artifacts of his life — including a gift from Jackie Kennedy.

Thursday, June 26, 2014 10:29 PM Comments (0)

Imagine a village of 3,500 people getting together to plan a low-cost, high-impact celebration.

Solution: sturdy crepe paper ribbons and banners — on every house!

Two months after his canonization, St John XXIII’s hometown of Sotto il Monte Giovanni XXIII (yes, the government changed the town’s name) in northern Italy, is still covered in yellow and white crepe flowers, sashes, and Maypole-style ribbons paired with Vatican flags and “Santo” banners featuring an outline of the saint’s robust figure.

About 40 minutes northwest of Bergamo by bus, with the Alps in sight, this modest community is naturally motivated by deep pride in Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, one of 13 children, born into a...READ MORE

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Rome's Joy in His Presence

Monday, June 23, 2014 9:52 PM Comments (1)

Editor’s Note: Victor Gaetan is exploring issues facing Catholic communities in Turkey, the Balkans, Ukraine, Transylvania, and Hungary over the next six weeks. He started in Rome, fortuitously on the Feast of Corpus Christi, where this guest blog begins:


Last Thursday morning in Rome, as I approached a cheerful carabiniere setting up barricades outside the Papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, a group of tourists from northern Italy got to him first, asking what time Papa Francesco would arrive in the square for the Corpus Christi benediction.

The benediction is the end-point of a candlelit procession behind the Blessed Sacrament traditionally led by the pope on the Solemnity of...READ MORE

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About Victor Gaetan

Victor Gaetan
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Victor Gaetan is a correspondent for the National Catholic Register, focusing on international issues. He also writes for Foreign Affairs magazine on religious matters. He contributed to Catholic News Service for several years. The Catholic Press Association of North America has given his articles four first place awards, including Individual Excellence, over the last five years. Gaetan received a license (B.A.) in Ottoman and Byzantine Studies from Sorbonne University in Paris, an M.A. from the Fletcher School of International Law and Diplomacy, and a Ph.D. in Ideology in Literature from Tufts University.