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Head of Turkish bishops conference stabbed to death
GENEVA (RNS/ENInews) The Italian-born president of the Catholic bishops’ conference in Turkey, Bishop Luigi Padovese, was found stabbed to death in the southern Turkish city of Iskenderun on Thursday (June 3).
“This is horrible news that left us deeply shocked,” Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said Thursday, one day before Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to depart on a three-day trip to neighboring Cyprus.
Lombardi said “political motivations” and “other motivations linked to socio-political tensions are to be excluded” in determining why Padovese was killed, according to Vatican Radio.
Christians have often complained of discrimination in Turkey, where about 99 percent of the country’s 77 million people are Muslim. The Catholic Church there has just 32,000 members.
Vatican Radio said Turkish officials confirmed that police were holding a man of Kurdish origins, named only as “Murat A.”, as a suspect in the killing of the bishop.
Lombardi said the suspect had been employed as a driver and general handyman by the bishop.
The Anatolian Agency news service said a man had attacked Padovese in the garden of his summer house in Karajan, a seaside resort on the outskirts of Iskenderun.
Padovese, 63, was ordained in 1973, and became a bishop and apostolic vicar (papal representative) of Anatolia, Turkey, in 2004. He had been scheduled to travel to Cyprus for a meeting between the pope and Catholic bishops from the Middle East this weekend.
“Bishop Padovese was a person who gave his entire life to bring the gospel of love and peace to difficult situations, and therefore should be written among the witnesses of the gospel,” said Lombardi.
“This fact, coming as it does on the eve of a papal trip to the Middle East, lends an extraordinary intensity to the pope’s mission to encourage the Christian communities living in this region, helping us to profoundly understand the urgent need for the solidarity of the universal church to support these Christian communities,” Lombardi said.

— Stephen Brown
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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