ANKARA, Turkey – A knife-wielding attacker injured a Roman Catholic priest Sunday in the Black Sea port of Samsun, a church official said, in the third attack against a Catholic priest in Turkey in recent months.
The French priest, Pierre Brunissen, 74, was stuck with a knife in the hip and leg and rushed to a hospital, Monsignor Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar for Anatolia, told The Associated Press by telephone from his church in Iskenderun, southern Turkey. An initial report from the Anatolia news agency incorrectly identified the priest as an Italian.
Brunissen, of Samsun's Mater Dolorosa church, lost a lot of blood but was not in a life-threatening condition, Padovese said.
Police immediately detained a 47-year-old suspect, Anatolia reported. The man, who was not identified by name, was described as being mentally ill, and had made complaints against the priest for allegedly proselytizing, the agency reported. Proselytizing is not illegal in Turkey but is generally not tolerated.
It was the third attack against a Catholic priest in predominantly Muslim Turkey since February, when a Catholic priest was killed while kneeling in prayer in his church in the nearby city of Trabzon.
Another priest, a Slovenian, was grabbed by the throat, thrown into a garden and threatened with death in the Aegean port city of Izmir. Also, a man upset by the newspaper caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad admitted throwing a fire bomb that caused a small fire on the roof of another church in Izmir.
"I hope this has nothing to with Islamic fundamentalism," Padovese said of the latest attack. "The climate has changed. ... It is the Catholic priests that are being targeted."
A 16-year-old youth is currently on trial for the murder of the Rev. Andrea Santoro, 60, who was shot and killed Feb. 5 while he prayed in his parish in Trabzon. Witnesses said the youth shouted "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great," before firing two bullets into Santoro's back.