Priest stabbing suspect issues conflicting statements

Izmir, Turkey - The man who stabbed Priest Adriano Francini at St. Antoine's Church in the Aegean city of İzmir Sunday has reportedly given a contradictory testimony.

Ramazan Bay, who stabbed Francini after Sunday mass in the city's Bayraklı district, allegedly told the police that he did it because Francini is a missionary who wants to convert Turks to Christianity.

Francini gave money to an old woman after the rite and shortly after had a conversation with Bay, according to eyewitness accounts. When Bay asked Francini for money but was refused, he stabbed the priest, the eyewitnesses said.

But other sources report that, in his testimony, Bay told the police that he came to İzmir from Balıkesir to learn about the Chistian faith and was invited by the church to participate in the rite. He added that he got angry with Franchini's speech and then stabbed him in the corridor.

Francini also told the police that he spoke to Bay for 15 minutes before mass. In his testimony the priest said that once he informed Bay that he was not ready to become a Christian, Bay suddenly got nervous and stabbed him.

Francini is still being treated at Ege University's Medical School. Assistant head doctor of the school and associate professor, Mehmet Kantar, said he is in good health condition. “The priest's general health condition is okay. There is no a serious wounding. The priest can be discharged from the hospital [Monday].”

There have been a number of similar attacks over the past two years.

In February 2006, a 16-year-old boy shot and killed a Catholic priest as he knelt in prayer inside his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon. Following that murder, a Catholic priest was attacked and threatened in İzmir, and another was stabbed in the Black Sea port of Samsun. In April, three missionaries were killed at a Bible publishing house in Malatya. In November of this year, an Assyrian cleric was kidnapped in southeast Turkey and rescued by security forces.

Vatican: Bay is a regular churchgoer

Bay had been a regular churchgoer for three years but he stabbed Francini when he refused to baptize him by saying that he was not ready to convert to Christianity, according to the Asia News agency, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Archbishop of İzmir Ruggero Franceschini said that the Christian clergymen were careful about the baptism in Turkey because some people who pretend to have a genuine interest in Christianity may be provocateurs who blame the church for expansion.

''There has been increase in the number of assaults against Christian clergymen. Again they would say that it's related to an abnormal person. But, in this way, the number of insane people involved in these actions against Christian clergyman is increasing in the last year-and-a-half. What a coincidence that all these insane people are targeting Christian clergymen,” the archbishop said.