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Turkey bishop murder suspect 'depressed'

Msgr Padovese 'had been helping driver with problem'

03 June, 18:50
Turkey bishop murder suspect 'depressed' (see previous story on site).

(ANSA) - Vatican City, June 3 - A Turkish man suspected of murdering the Vatican's top bishop in Turkey Thursday had been suffering from depression, the prelate's secretary said.

Bishop Luigi Padovese's longtime driver Murat Altun is being questioned by police in connection with the fatal stabbing in the southeastern Turkish port of Iskenderun.

Padovese's secretary, Franciscan missionary nun Eleonora de Stefano, told Catholic news agency Misna she had last heard from the 63-year-old cleric at around 13:00, when he was having lunch with Murat.

"Since Murat had been suffering from severe depression for at least two weeks, he had been seeing Msgr Padovese often, as he was trying to help him come out of it," Sister de Stefano said.

Msgr Padovese had been set to leave for Cyprus Friday to attend a meeting of Middle Eastern Catholic representatives with Pope Benedict XVI but had not been feeling well himself, she said, and had asked her to annul his and Murat's ticket to the island.

The governor of Haltay province, where Iskenderun is located, told a Turkish private TV station that Murat "was being treated for psychological problems".

"On the basis of the first inquiries made by police, the murder does not appear to have had political or religious motives," said Governor Mehmet Celalettin Lekesiz.

A Milan-born Capuchin friar, Msgr Padovese is the second Catholic priest slain in Turkey in six years, after a Rome-born missionary priest, Father Andrea Santoro, was killed by a teenager in his church in the Black Sea port of Trabzon in February 2006.

Padovese had been Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia since 2004 and was currently head of the Turkish bishops conference.

An academic who had held several posts at Vatican universities, he was considered an expert on Christian-Muslim dialogue and had been working on reviving Turkey's dwindling Christian communities, the Vatican said.

On Wednesday he had met Turkish officials to discuss minority issues.

The slain bishop loved Turkey, as was apparent in a recent guidebook he wrote, the Vatican said.

At a funeral mass for Father Santoro, Msgr Padovese said: "We forgive those who committed this crime. It is not by annihilating those who think differently that conflicts are resolved".

Interfaith dialogue was also the focus of the bishop's last interview with Catholic news agency SIR, on May 26.

In it he stressed the need for Christian communities to unite and stake a claim to "full citizenship" in Muslim countries.

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