.- The President of the Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrated a memorial Mass in Trabzon, Turkey, today for an Italian priest who was murdered there last year.
Cardinal Camillo Ruini celebrated the private Mass at Santa Maria Church, located in the Black Sea port city.
A 16-year-old Muslim boy shot Fr. Andrea Santoro, 60, twice after the priest had concluded Mass at Santa Maria Church, on Feb.5, 2006. The teen allegedly shouted "Allah Akbar" (God is great) after he opened fire. He was sentenced to nearly 19 years imprisonment for the priest’s murder.
The Cardinal said his intent for the Mass is to bring peace and healing among Christians in Turkey, "I hope this service will help deepen friendship," Ruini said. "I hope it will help us to find the truth and bring us closer to God."
Msgr. Luigi Padovese, the Apostolic Vicar for Turkey, told AKI that the mass was private “as we wish that the media will not give it too much emphasis.”
While the media was not invited to attend the Mass, a small group of faithful attended, including Fr. Santoro’s mother and sister. The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Antonio Lucibello, the Apostolic Nuncio.
"The moment is very delicate and we prefer to maintain discretion to avoid problems," Msgr. Padovese reportedly said. The AKI report claims the prelate was referring to tensions in Turkey, which have been triggered by the assassination of a prominent ethnic Armenian, Christian Orthodox journalist, Hrant Dink, on Jan. 19.