03/07/2006 09:20 AM
Reuters

A French Catholic priest has survived a knife attack in Turkey in an incident that recalled the fatal shooting of another priest five months ago that shocked the Muslim nation.

Pierre Brunissen was stabbed in the hip by a 47-year-old man in the Black Sea port of Samsun. His attacker, known locally to be mentally unbalanced, had recently accused Brunissen of spreading "Christian propaganda".

The priest's attacker has been arrested.

Brunissen, who has lived in Turkey for many years, is making a good recovery in hospital. The regional governor and police chief have visited the hospital.

In February, a teenage boy shot dead an Italian priest in his church in the Black Sea city of Trabzon, drawing condemnation from the prime minister and other officials in a nation that takes pride in a tradition of religious tolerance.

Pope Benedict, who plans to visit Turkey in November, and the European Union also expressed shock at the shooting.

The incident is cited as one reason for a decrease in the number of foreign tourists visiting Turkey this year amid increased tensions between the West and the Islamic world.

Turkish media say the teenage boy, whose trial is still continuing, may have acted under the influence of militant Islamists taking revenge for cartoons published in some Western media lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.

The Catholic Church condemned the cartoons.

Turkey, an EU candidate country, has a secular political system but is overwhelmingly Muslim.

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Peter Kay