A Catholic bishop has been stabbed to death in southern Turkey, the Vatican Embassy in Ankara confirmed on Thursday.
The victim was identified by the Vatican as Luigi Padovese, the apostolic vicar of Anatolia. He was assaulted on Thursday in his house in Iskenderun, located in Hatay province, the Vatican said.
Church officials expressed "shock and sorrow" over the death of Padovese, also the president of the Turkey Bishops Conference
"I can only express an immense pain over this violent act that has taken us by surprise," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
"The tragedy of this event shows the difficulty that the Christian community endures in the Middle East region."
Roman Catholics in Turkey "occasionally have been subjected to violent societal attacks," according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, a U.S. government agency.
The group's latest report cites the February 2006 shooting death of "an Italian Catholic priest" in Trabzon by a boy "angered over the caricatures of the Muslim prophet in Danish newspapers."
A 16-year-old boy was charged with murder and sentenced to jail in the act, which drew condemnations from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other government officials.
In July 2009, a "mentally disturbed young man' killed Gregor Kerkeling, a Catholic German businessman in what has been described as an anti-Christian hate crime. The suspect confessed.