Here we go again, only this time GetReligion is requesting a correction from The Washington Post. We recently discovered that the copy desk at The New York Times takes corrections very seriously, going so far as to dig back into history and correct past mistakes as well as the one that was bugging us. The email address for Washington Post corrections is a logical one: firstname.lastname@example.org. So here goes:
Corrections desk, The Washington Post:
My name is Terry Mattingly and I am a journalism professor and religion columnist who works with the GetReligion.org website that discusses religion-news coverage in the mainstream press. We would like to request a correction in your April 9 news feature with the headline "In Turkey, a Deep Suspicion of Missionaries."
We realize that this story by Karl Vick story is rather old, but it only recently came to the attention of our weblog.
Here is the passage that concerns us. The goal, at this point in the story, is to explain the roots of the current 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 directorate, which exercises control over all Turkish mosques, distributed a sermon for Friday prayers nationwide a year ago. Imams warned worshipers that missionaries were involved in a plot to "steal the beliefs of our young people and children."
The problem with this statement is rather obvious. At least, we think that it is obvious.
It is true that the sacking of the great Byzantine city of Constantinople in 1204 did create bitter wounds that affect the modern world -- wounds that affect contact between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The late Pope John Paul II was especially concerned about this, as shown in this news event that received global news coverage (including this 2004 report in the Telegraph):
The Pope delivered an emotional apology to Orthodox Christians ... for the Catholic plundering of Constantinople eight centuries ago, saying it caused him "pain and disgust." He made his comments during a visit to the Vatican by Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and the head of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians.
"In particular, we cannot forget what happened in the month of April 1204," the Pope said, in reference to the sacking of Constantinople by crusaders. "How can we not share, at a distance of eight centuries, the pain and disgust."
The incident, which was part of the Fourth Crusade, was one of the most violent events of the Middle Ages. It contributed to the collapse of the Byzantine Empire three centuries later.
After centuries of fighting, Constantinople fell to Muslim invaders in 1453 and the great Hagia Sophia cathedral was turned into a mosque.
You can verify this by reading the following essay on the website of the -- lo and behold -- Washington Post. It begins:
On the afternoon of 29 May 1453 the Sultan entered the long-desired city. Riding a white horse, he advanced down an avenue of death. The city of Constantinople was being put to the sack by the triumphant Ottoman army. According to an observer from Venice, blood flowed through the streets like rainwater after a sudden storm; corpses floated out to sea like melons along a canal. An Ottoman official, Tursun Beg, wrote that the troops `took silver and gold vessels, precious stones, and all sorts of valuable goods and fabrics from the imperial palace and the houses of the rich. In this fashion many people were delivered from poverty and made rich. Every tent was filled with handsome boys and beautiful girls.' On rode the Sultan, until he reached the mother church of Eastern Christendom and seat of the Oecumenical Patriarch, the cathedral of the Holy Wisdom built 900 years earlier by the Emperor Justinian with the largest dome in Europe. He dismounted and bent down to pick up a handful of earth, which he poured over his turban as an act of humility before God.
So the Post has reported that actions by Islamists in modern Turkey against Christians are somehow rooted in anger over the actions of Western Crusaders against Eastern Christians in 1204?
Please correct the error in the April 9 report and any earlier Post stories that repeated it.