An Italian Catholic priest was shot dead outside his church in north-east Turkey on Sunday. Fr Andrea Santoro was killed by a 16 year old high school student. Many media reports link the killing to the worldwide protests over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Hours after the murder, Papal Nuncio Antonio Lucibello confirmed to the press that the attacker had shouted "Allahu akbar" (God is great) as he ran out of the church. Although the phrase is an Arabic acclamation of prayer, it is also used as a rallying cry by Islamist militants. Leaders of the overwhelmingly Muslim country have condemned the pictures, but have also called for calm. The Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is the spiritual head of the world's Orthodox Christians, and other non-Muslim clerics in Turkey have also criticised the images. His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul and All Turkey, expressed his sympathy on the assassination of Fr Andrea. In a message to Pope Benedict Benedict he said he had met Fr Andrea and remembered "his dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ, his joyful attitude and the profound love and willingness to reach out to the Muslim neighbours". He informed the Pope that in all the Armenian churches in Turkey a memorial service would be held for t he repose of the Fr. Santoro's soul. The Patriarch concluded his letter praying that all sorts of violence may be overcome and the peace of Christ prevail in the world. Source: Armenian Church
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