Istanbul, 3 July (AKI) – Turkey’s Catholic apostolic vicar said on Monday that the country is no longer safe for Catholics, a day after a French Catholic priest was attacked in the northeastern city of Samsun. “I live in Iskenderun [on the borders with Syria], but what I say is valid for the whole country – I do not feel safe anymore, and Catholic religious personnel living in other towns don’t either,” Italian bishop Luigi Padovese told Rome daily La Repubblica. Father Pierre Brunissen celebrated mass once a month at the church in the northeastern city of Trabzon where Italian priest Andrea Santoro was killed by a young Muslim man five months ago.
Brunisse was stabbed on Sunday by a 47-year-old man who was immediately arrested. Police have not revealed his identity yet. The French priest, 74, is in hospital in Samsun and is not reportedly in serious condition.
“There have not been other very serious episodes, at least not as serious as father Santoro’s killing and the latest attack to father Brunissen, but there have been a number of minor episodes which, taken altogether, give an idea of the situation,” Padovese said. “Priests at Izmir and Mersin have been threatened directly or through phone-calls and father Brunissen himself had received threats through phone calls not long ago.”
Although the Catholic church tries to promote inter-faith dialogue in Turkey through conferences and meetings, he said, following the killing of father Santoro “the atmosphere has not improved.” “TV channels offer a bad image of Catholic missionary priests and cinema does not do better,” he concluded.