Turkey: Italian priest stabbed by youth after mass

Istanbul, 17 Dec. (AKI) - An Italian priest has been stabbed in the stomach in the Turkish port city of Izmir, allegedly by a disgruntled youth who wanted to convert to Christianity.

The Italian daily La Repubblica said Father Adriano Franchini, from the northern province of Modena had been missionary in Turkey for more than 27 years.

The 65-year old priest was stabbed outside his church after finishing mass on Sunday.

According to witnesses, the Turkish youth had been trying for three years to convert to Christianity and often complained about the long conversion procedures.

After mass, the youth reportedly approached the priest and stabbed him in the stomach. He fled but was later captured along with two other accomplices.

The newspaper said he had received an email from his alleged attacker saying "I want to become Christian. I want to be baptised".

Franchini was taken to hospital, had minor surgery and spoke to the media from his hospital bed.

Turkey is predominantly Muslim with a small Christian minority, but is considered a secular state.

The stabbing follows a series of recent attacks on Christians in Turkey, and the fatal shooting of Italian priest Andrea Santoro in February 2006.

"The question that must be asked now is who is behind the attacks," said a colleague of Franchini.

"Because it is easy to attribute guilt. But we must go beyond that, and ask ourselves who wants this escalation in aggression."



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