Vatican Opposes Turkey Joining European Union

VATICAN CITY (AKI)–According to the Head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity Cardinal Walter Kasper–the recent stabbing of a Catholic priest in the northern Turkish city of Samsun shows that Turkey is not ready for European Union membership.

"It is not the right moment for Turkey to join the European Union. What is still missing [in Turkey]–is a secular state capable of assuring real religious freedom–and this is a long process which needs time," he told Milan Daily Corriere della Sera on Tuesday.

Referring also to the stabbing by a Turkish suspect of French Priest Pierre Brunissen late on Sunday–Cardinal Kasper said the Catholic church believes that "every act of violence committed in the name of God is an insult to Him and to every religion."

In Turkey "the church is not even entitled to private property–there is some tolerance–but no real freedom," explained Cardinal Kasper. "The Turkish state administers religion and that is not right. However–it is not just a problem of regulations–it is a mentality issue–and this cannot change quickly," he added.

"The atmosphere is pervaded by suspicion and xenophobia–it is not just a problem of individual acts of aggression towards Catholics. Islamic fundamentalism is growing in Istanbul and there is hostility toward foreigners," he explained.

According to the cardinal–education is a key issue and the authorities should encourage young Turks to "look at present times with new eyes."

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