Love Where There Could Have Been Hate

Deal W. Hudson
March 1, 2006

I have just returned from Rome, where a senior member of the Curia asked me to tell readers of The Window the following story. You may have already heard its beginning but in all likelihood, not its end.

On Sunday, February 5, 2006, while praying in his church, an Italian priest by the name of Fr. Andrea Santoro was shot and killed by a young man who shouted, “Allahu akbar,” or “Allah is great.”

Fr. Santoro was a priest of the diocese of Rome who was serving in the city of Trabzon, Turkey, as part of a Vatican missionary program called “Fidei Donum” (Gift of Faith). The 60-year-old priest had been ministering in Turkey for six years where, from all reports, he was a man deeply committed to fostering understanding between the east and west, as well as peace among religions. He also served the poor and was notably active in the fight against sex trafficking of Christian women, a practice common in the region.

At Fr., Santoro’s funeral, which was attended by thousands including political and Church leaders, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the Diocese of Rome, affirmed that he intended to open the priest’s cause for canonization. He also reported, “With all her heart the mother of Father Andrea forgives the person who armed himself to kill her son, and she feels great pain for him because he, too, is a son of the one God who is love.”

Television cameras recording the funeral panned to where the mother of the slain priest sat and showed her nodding at the Cardinal’s words. A member of the Curia told me that it was an extremely powerful moment of forgiveness, one which deeply touched all who saw it on Italian television. He thought it was important to bring it to the attention of American Catholics.

But there is more. Fr. Thomas K. Williams, a Legionary priest who teaches at their seminary in Rome, alerted me to another part of the story.

In response to the forgiveness of Fr. Santoro’s mother, the father of the killer, Hikmet Akdin, told the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera,”I know, and ever since I heard those words I have a desire in my heart. I want to save enough money to go to Italy and kiss that woman’s hands as a sign of gratitude. Please tell her how much I appreciate her goodness, which has touched me. I want to embrace her. She’s a courageous woman, and I’m sure is an excellent mother. I’ll kiss her hands if it’s the last act of my life.”

Through these statements of his mother and the father of his killer, Fr. Santoro’s death, as well as his life, gives witness to the words he wrote in a letter published in his online magazine, “Window to the Middle East.” In what turned out to be his last letter to his readers, he wrote:

“Moreover, Jesus said: ‘I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness.’ If his light illuminates us, not only will it illuminate every situation, even the most tragic, but in addition we too, as he always said, will be light. The tenuous light of a candle illuminates a house; an extinguished lamp leaves everything in darkness. May he shine in us with his Word, with his Spirit, with the sap of his saints. May our life be the wax that is consumed willingly.”

We all find it hard to forgive. Sometimes we justify our lack of forgiveness by thinking the wrong suffered is too painful to forget. What could cause greater pain than the loss of a child? In the example of this mother’s forgiveness, we see an act of love where we normally see the birth of hate.

This is the message, I believe, I was asked to convey to you at this moment, the beginning of our Lenten season.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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