Monday

27th Mar 2017

Turkey not ready to join the EU, says cardinal

"It is not the right moment for Turkey to join the European Union", cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity said after another catholic priest was attacked in Turkey over the weekend.

On Sunday (2 July) 74-year-old French priest Pierre Brunissen was stabbed, suspectedly by a mentally unbalanced man in the Black Sea port of Samsun. The priest left hospital on Monday and Turkish police have detained a 47-year-old suspect.

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  • Catholic religious personnel feel unsafe in Turkey (Photo: EUobserver)

But Pierre Brunissen was the third catholic priest attacked or harassed in Turkey since February and the latest attack prompted strong reactions from the catholic church.

"Islamic fundamentalism is growing in Istanbul and there is hostility towards foreigners," cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, told Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

"It is not the right moment for Turkey to join the European Union. What is still missing [in Turkey], is a secular state capable of assuring real religious freedom, and this is a long process which needs time."

The apostolic nuncio in Turkey, Archbishop Luigi Padovese, added he felt Turkey was no longer safe for catholics.

"I live in Iskenderun [on the border 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," he told Italian daily La Repubblica.

The archbishop added that Pierre Brunissen had received threats over the telephone not long before he was attacked and that others had also been threatened directly or through phone calls.

In February catholic priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead in Trabzon, another Black Sea port city.

A 16-year-old Turk went on trial in May on charges of killing Mr Santoro with the prosecution demanding a life sentence.

Only five days after Mr Santoro's killing another Roman Catholic priest from Italy said he had been harassed by a group of young men at St. Helen's Catholic Church in the western Turkish city of Izmir.

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to pay an official visit to Turkey in November.

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