Cardinal says Turkey not ready for Europe: report

Rome, Italy - A Vatican cardinal said a knife attack on a Roman Catholic priest in Turkey showed that the EU candidate country was not yet ready for integration with Europe.

Turkey was not truly a secular state that guaranteed full religious freedom, Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Vatican's department for Christian Unity, was also quoted as saying by Milan's Corriere della Sera newspaper on Tuesday.

"There is a certain tolerance but not authentic freedom ... Turkey must change many things and it is not just a question of laws but of mentality, and you can't change mentality in one day," Kasper was quoted as saying.

Kasper was responding to a question about the stabbing on Sunday of a French priest - an incident that recalled the fatal shooting of another Catholic priest five months ago.

Pierre Brunissen was stabbed by a 47-year-old man in the Black Sea port of Samsun. His attacker, suspected of being mentally unbalanced, had recently accused Brunissen of spreading "Christian propaganda." The attacker was arrested.

Speaking by telephone from Moscow, Kasper said Turkey was "still lacking is a true lay state that guarantees religious freedom" and added he doubted "the integration of Turkey in Europe is possible at this moment."

Turkey, which Pope Benedict will visit in November, has a secular political system but is overwhelmingly Muslim.

In February, a teenage boy shot dead an Italian priest in his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, drawing condemnation from the prime minister and other officials.

Before he was elected Pope last year, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger gave an interview arguing that Europe's roots are Christian and that a Muslim country would not fit in.