A priest is beaten in Izmir

Ankara, Turkey - With the battle cry “we will kill you all” a group of youths launched themselves in attack on a Franciscan friar in Izmir (the ancient Smyrna). The attack took place within the confines of St. Helen’s parish.

Speaking with evident emotion, Msgr Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, says “The boys grabbed him by the throat shouting “we will kill you all””. According to the bishop this latest aggression is “fruit of rampant fanaticism”. The attack took place within the monastic compound. The priest, who hails from Slovenia, is Martin Kmetec.

Msgr Padovese says that brother Kmetec reported the incident to local police but “they took little heed of the attack”.

Only today the Vatican officially confirmed, through a statement released by spokesman Joaquin Navarro, that “the President of Turkey Ahmet Necdet Sezer has invited His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to pay an official visit to the nation from November 28-30 2006. The Holy Father has accepted the invitation. Discussions to fine tune details for the visit are underway”.

The invitation to the Pope to come to Turkey for the feast of St Andrew (November 30) was first extended to Benedict XVI a year ago by ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and the Holy Father had already answered positively. But for the visit to become reality, the invitation had to include the consent of the Turkish government who postponed the trip to 2006.

The fact that the announcement was made in the wake of the murder in Turkey of Italian Fr. Andrea Santoro, appears both significant and indicative of the wish to show concern for ongoing dialogue. Turkish papers have published a letter written by the priest to the Holy Father, with irritated comments over the fact that a priest and three Georgian women should, unify their voices to that of the Patriarch and invite the Pope to Turkey.