Priest stabbed in Ä°zmir

franchini1.jpgWe shouldn’t exaggerate the attack, says stabbed priest
A Catholic priest who was hospitalized after being stabbed on Sunday in Ä°zmir has stated that he is in good condition and that the attack should not be exaggerated

Father Adriano Franchini was stabbed in the stomach after Sunday Mass at St. Anthony’s Church in the western province of Ä°zmir by a young assailant and was hospitalized at Central Hospital and then transferred to Ege University Medical Hospital. The priest, who serves at the House of the Virgin Mary in Selçuk, was conscious when he was taken to the hospital.
Franchini said he feels fine and the attack should neither be exaggerated nor connected to other attacks. “I feel fine. There is no problem with my health. I am still in the hospital, but I hope to be released soon,” he stated.

Dr. Sinan Ersin from Ege University Medical Hospital noted that Franchini is in good condition and his morale is high, adding that he may be discharged from the hospital today. Noting that the priest underwent surgery in another hospital before he was transferred to their hospital, Ersin said: “His wound does not seem to be serious, and it is not life-threatening. We will decide whether he will be discharged on Tuesday after final evaluations.”

The assailant, 19-year-old R.B., was taken into custody by Ä°zmir police after the attack and confessed to the crime during interrogation. R.B. was interrogated at the counterterrorism office in the Bozyaka district of Ä°zmir, where he noted that he had observed Sunday Mass at St. Anthony’s and wanted to ask the priest a question regarding Christianity. “Then, we started to quarrel and I stabbed him in the stomach,” he stated.

There are allegations that the assailant traveled to İzmir from his hometown of Balıkesir, north of İzmir, claiming to be seeking information on Christianity. Franchini invited R.B. to observe Sunday Mass after which the two had a brief discussion on converting to Christianity. R.B. suddenly became furious when Franchini said the young man was not ready to convert to Christianity and he stabbed the priest in the stomach.

R.B.’s uncle, on the other hand, noted that his nephew had left his hometown approximately a week ago, saying that he had found a new job. “I cannot believe that my nephew committed such a murder. He was a very quiet person. His mother died when he was only 9 years old. He decided to work after he graduated from high school. He left home almost a week ago, saying he had found a new job but he did not tell us where he was going. He has friends whom he visits frequently in Balıkesir. We thought he went to stay with them. I am really saddened by the fact that he committed such a crime.”

R.B.’s father stated that he was very sad to hear that his son was involved in such an incident, noting that he had strongly encouraged his son to continue his education though he was kicked out of school for stabbing one of his friends during his third year of high school.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, who is currently in Paris to participate in the Donors’ Conference on the Palestinian Territories, stated that he harshly condemns the attack. “I am saddened to hear that the Catholic priest Franchini was stabbed by a Turkish youth. No matter what the reason was, I strongly condemn the attack. I heard that his condition is not life-threatening. I hope he recovers soon. For centuries, people from different cultures and religions have lived in peace in our territories,” he stated.

Archbishop of Ä°zmir Ruggero Franceschini, who paid a visit to Franchini at the hospital, said he did not have much time to talk to the priest about the attack. “I could not stay long. I hope he recovers soon,” said Franceschini.

Home of the Virgin Mary Association President Noel Mikalef, upon a question over whether there could be a connection between the attacks against Franchini and priest Andrea Santoro who was killed in Trabzon in 2006, said: “It is too early to connect the assault perpetrated against Franchini with attacks against other priests. We are happy that Franchini is in good condition.”

There have been a number of similar attacks over the past two years. Italian Roman Catholic priest Santoro, 61, was shot dead at Santa Maria Catholic church in the Black Sea port city of Trabzon on Feb. 5, 2006, by a teenager. Assailants killed three people at a publishing house that distributed Bibles in Malatya province in April 2007. Three Christians, a German and two Turks, were found with their throats slit and their hands and legs bound. A Syriac Orthodox priest was kidnapped in the southeastern city of Mardin in late November and was released three days later in Batman.