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M1 Jun04 D3408sARCall me cynical, but I'm betting it was an automated reply and that the WP WON'T issue a correction. Posted by David at 8:47 pm on July 23, 2006

Once again, we are finding that our nation's major newspapers appear to be taking corrections pretty seriously these days. This is good news, for those of us who love daily journalism.

I had a talk yesterday with the international desk at The Washington Post about GetReligion's request for a correction on that April story by correspondent Karl Vick titled "In Turkey, a Deep Suspicion of Missionaries: Priest's Killing Shows Complex Ties of Islam to Nationalism in Officially Secular State."

The passage that caught the eye of the Divine Ms. M was this one, which was supposed to explain the origins of violence in Istanbul against Catholic priests and Christian missionaries in general:

The tension dates at least to the 13th century, when Christian Crusaders sacked what is today Istanbul.

"Missionaries and the Crusades are related," Turkey's Directorate of Religious Affairs declared in a pamphlet published last June.

The problem, for us, was obvious. Back in 1204, Constantinople was the center of Eastern Christianity -- creating a terrible wound that has long affected the relationship between Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy. Muslims did not take the city until 1453, as explained in this essay at the Post's website.

The international desk was quite familiar with the details of our complaint and had discussed the matter with Vick, who is no longer in Istanbul. The newspaper has not decided if this deserves a correction, a clarification or the attention of ombudsman Deborah Howell, who is a veteran religion writer.

The newspaper's position is that Vick may not have given a "full enough picture of what he meant to say," because he was well aware of the complex history of that era. There were, in 1204, Muslims who lived in the heart of Byzantium and a few mosques were trashed by the Western crusaders, along with the Orthodox cathedral Hagia Sophia and the hundreds of Orthodox parishes and monasteries that defined the city. There were some Muslims in the forces that attempted to defend the city against the invaders.

Thus, Turkish officials may cite this as an example of the history of tensions between the Christian West and this city. The question is whether this has anything to do with the actions today by Islamist radicals who target the work of Christians, Eastern and Western.

What would happen if Eastern Orthodox bishops and missionaries tried to move into Istanbul in support of the tiny, aging and persecuted flock of Orthodox believers who dare to remain there? Are the actions of Turkish nationalists and Islamists against the Eastern Orthodox rooted in the memories of the violence of Western crusaders against the holy city of Byzantium in 1204?

We still have our doubts and believe that a correction or clarification is needed.

P.S. I am headed out the door for a week of vacation with the family, once again fleeing to the telephone-free wonder of our beloved Southern Highlands. Mollie and Dan will carry on and I will drop in from time to time, thanks to the wireless world at the lovely Dotcom Cafe in Burnsville, N.C.

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