Catholic bishop is stabbed to death Bishop Luigi Padovese
A CATHOLIC bishop was stabbed to death in southern Turkey yesterday, a day before he was scheduled to meet with Pope Benedict.
Luigi Padovese (63), the apostolic vicar in Anatolia, was attacked outside his home in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.
Police have arrested his driver in connection with the attack.
The motive for the killing of the apostolic vicar for Anatolia, in the town of Iskenderun, was not known.
Previous attacks on Christians have raised concerns about the safety of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim Turkey.
Last night Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said: "This is a tragic event that shocks us deeply."
Vatican officials said the killing was worrying.
"I can only express shock, worry and solidarity with the local Catholic community over this," said Father Federico Lombardi, the chief Vatican spokesman.
Fr Lombardi said Pope Benedict would speak out about violence against Christian minority communities in the Middle East during a visit to Cyprus, which begins today.
Four years ago, a Catholic priest, Andrea Santoro, was murdered in the Turkish Black Sea town of Trabzon by a teenager with suspected links to ultra-nationalists. In 2007, three members of a Bible-publishing company, one of whom was a German citizen, were tortured and killed in Malatya.
Bishop Padovese served as president of the Turkish Bishops' Conference and worked for the return of Christian sites seized by Turkish authorities.
"As he was a friend of Turkey, about which he produced important works, Padovese's death is a significant loss, in religious and scientific terms," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Turkey has about 100,000 Christians out of a total population of 71 million.
Bishop Padovese was appointed to his post in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun in 2004.
About 100 Catholics live in Hatay province, home to the cave Church of St Peter, reputed to be where Jesus's disciple Peter led the first mass.
It is home to 2,000 Greek Orthodox Christians and a tiny Jewish community.
"We are in a state of sadness and shock. This is something you would never expect in Hatay. It is a safe place," said Fadi Hurigil, head of the Greek Orthodox Church Foundation of Antakya.