How Turkey successfully averted a crisis with the Vatican

How Turkey successfully averted a crisis with the Vatican

The good news came through a column. Hürriyet columnist Fatih Çekirge opened his piece, “How Turkey’s crisis with the Christian world was averted,” on March 30, datelined “The Vatican,” by relieving everyone: “Let’s first break the news. Turkey and the Christian world have gone through a serious crisis over Apr. 24 [the anniversary of the Armenian genocide]. And that crisis was averted at the last minute.” 

Mr. Çekirge then mentions a dinner he had attended as a guest at the Piazza San Pietro in the Vatican, luckily sitting next to Turkey’s ambassador to the Catholic city-state. The columnist praised the Turkish ambassador, Professor Mehmet Paçacı: “It has been so useful to appoint a theologian with credible intellectuality as ambassador to the Vatican instead of [just] a diplomat.” Mr. Çekirge finally leaves the floor to a quote from Ambassador Paçacı: “If the Pope decided to go to Yerevan on Apr. 24, a serious crisis would have erupted. But this will not happen [thanks to] Turkey’s influence.”

This was excellent news. Except that the crisis the theologian/ambassador said had been averted was just rescheduled from Apr. 24 to Apr. 12. The boring-and-amusing Turkish pastime that blends childish doses of self-deception with unfounded self-confidence repeated itself when the Holy See labelled the tragic events of 1915-1920 as the first genocide of the 20th century, and, consequently, the highly intellectual theologian/ambassador, Mr. Paçacı, was recalled by Ankara. 

All of which reminded this columnist of an entry in the first episode of the “Headlines from the centennial!” series: “Turkey threatens to freeze its diplomatic ties with the 96 countries where Armenian genocide denial is a crime unless they reduced prison sentences for this offense (Jan. 13, 2012).” The “fictional” headline from the Istanbul press in the year 2023 was a semi-joke on how Ankara was on a continuous downfall in its efforts to defend the non-defendable “our-noble-ancestors-did-nothing-wrong” line. 

But fear the Turkish wrath! Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has threatened that Ankara was mulling further (retaliatory) measures against the Vatican. That’s scary. 

Not every journalist has the privilege to sit next to a Turkish ambassador at a dinner and “break the [good] news” on how Turkey’s influence helped avert a crisis between the Crescent and Star and the Christian world. But your columnist has his own sources and challenges his colleague in breaking further good news. This is how Turkey will retaliate against the Vatican’s stab in the back:

Defense companies from the Vatican will not be allowed to compete for lucrative Turkish contracts, including deals for missile systems and fighter aircraft. Government-friendly NGOs in Turkey will launch massive boycotts against Vatican-made whiteware and other consumer goods. 

Economists expect the Vatican’s powerful carmakers will be affected the most. Turkish tour operators will stop carrying millions of tourists to the holy city every year, depriving the Vatican’s vibrant hotel industry of $$$$$. 

Turkey will also use its superpower influence and block the Vatican’s bid to become a member of the United Nations Security Council. Separately, a planned Turkish soft loan for the Vatican, worth $52 billion, will be suspended until the Pope apologizes to Turkey.

Rumor also has it that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told his inner cabinet that the Pope’s days as the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church were now numbered – just like Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s. In another punishing move, Mr. Davutoğlu allegedly ordered the mighty Turkish navy to sail to the Bahamas to stop the Vatican’s offshore hydrocarbon exploration activity there. 

Mr. Çekirge is right. It was an excellent idea to appoint a theologian/ambassador with credible intellectuality to the Vatican. Appointing just an ordinary ambassador could have caused a crisis between Turkey and the Christian world. Now that that crisis has been luckily averted, Ankara may consider appointing theologian/ambassadors to other western (and eastern) capitals too.