Trabzon (AsiaNews) Police investigating the murder of Fr Andrea Santoro announced that his killer has a face and a name. A close-circuit camera outside a jewellery shop near Saint Mary's Church caught the killer on tapethe man, who was wearing black pants and overcoat, killed the priest yesterday with one shot in the head and one the heart as he was praying in one of the front row pews of his parish church.
Mgr Luigi Padovese, Apostolic Vicar for Anatolia, arrived in Trabzon and in the morning went to the morgue to see the clergyman for one last time before the autopsy. In the meantime, the paperwork for the body's repatriation to Italy is being processed. He is expected to arrive in Rome on Wednesday for the funeral in Saint John Basilica.
Tonight at 5 pm local time, a mass in memory of Father Andrea will be celebrated in the church where the murder took place.
His Christian and Muslim neighbours and acquaintances are shocked, still wondering what might be behind the murder of a friendly man who had no enemies.
Turkish police is investigating two possible scenarios. The first and most likely one is that of a fanatic without any ties to any religious-political group. For instance, Italy's Ambassador to Turkey Carlo Marsili said that the murder, "according to preliminary reports, might be the act of a lone deranged person".
Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul also spoke of "an isolated incident" hoping that "such deeds are not repeated and harm the climate of tolerance that prevails in our country".
The atmosphere is however one of tension. Christian (but also Jewish and Muslim) places of worships are under police protection.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan voiced his indignation and displeasure about the murder.
"Killing a priest, in a hall of prayer of all places, is unacceptable and we condemn it without reservations. After recent events in Denmark and France, such an episode is extremely disheartening."
The second line of inquiry suggests possible links to trafficking in Christian prostitutes from the former Soviet Union. Since his arrival in Trabzon two years ago, Father Andrea was involved in helping young women get out of the sex business. Recently, he had travelled to Georgia to establish contacts with the local Church and find support for these women. According to this hypothesis, traffickers in women might have hired a hit-man telling him to shout "Allah Akhbar" to hide the real motive and set the police on the wrong track.
Trabzon's Prefect Huseyin Yavuzdemir told Turkish daily Vatan that the Italian priest had received threatening phone calls and death threats in the past.
The murder is front-page news today in the Turkish press with opinions unanimously disconcerted and saddened. Even the Islamic paper Yeni Shafak called the incident a "Cowardly provocation". For its part, the daily Milliyet said that a religious-political motive is likely behind the murder whose instigators are probably bent on provoking a conflict between Islam and Christianity, which currently does not and has no reason to exist in Turkey.